Benjamin Hottel headshot
Benjamin Hottel, PhD, BCE, PCQI

Bed bugs are some of the most invasive and resilient pests that can cause massive issues in senior living communities. Keeping bed bug outbreaks contained and prevented as much as possible is paramount to the safety and comfort of your community.

Although bed bugs are not known to carry diseases, their bites are extremely uncomfortable and even can become infected if scratched and not treated properly. Because they only feed on blood, bed bugs are attracted to any place where they can find a meal quickly and easily. Senior living communities experience a high concentration of individuals living in relatively small communities; therefore, one bed bug problem can spread to a much larger one quickly. A proactive approach to bed bug prevention is key to keeping your staff members, residents and their visitors safe.

Signs you have a bed bug problem

Bed bugs usually are found close to where people spend much of their time, and since bed bugs have flattened bodies, they like to get into small cracks and crevices near where people sleep. Mattresses, box springs, headboards, footboards, bed frames and other furniture that is within 5 to 8 feet of the bed are all favorites of those stealthy pests.

Bed bugs are typically 3/16 to 1/4 inch long, red to dark brown in color and mostly nocturnal insects that come out of hiding to take blood meals from humans. Although bed bugs are visible to the naked eye, they are excellent at hiding. If you notice any of the following signs, you may have a bed bug issue in your community:

  • Small, live bugs located on furniture
  • Clusters of dark brown or black spots of dried excrement on infested surfaces
  • Subtle, sweet and musty odor

Female bed bugs can deposit one to five eggs a day and may lay 200 to 500 eggs in their lifetime. They also can survive for several months while waiting for their next blood meal. Noticing the signs of bed bugs early and quickly taking action to help prevent them is key to containing the problem.

Proactive measures to help prevent bed bugs

Bed bugs primarily are transported by people. Between frequent visitors and high numbers of residents, bed bugs can enter your community through a variety of ways, commonly hitching rides on clothes and personal belongings. Although those pests are highly stealthy, you can take certain measures within your community to help reduce the risk of an infestation:

  • Inspect your community for signs of bed bugs regularly. Check the places where bed bugs hide during the day, including mattress tags and seams, and behind baseboards, headboards, wall art or mirrors, curtains, closets and electrical outlets. 
  • Decrease clutter to make it easier to spot bed bugs on your own or during professional inspections.
  • Wash and dry bed linens often using the hottest temperature allowed for the fabric to kill any lingering bugs that may be on those items.

Integrated pest management and senior living communities

Implementing an integrated pest management program in a senior living community is a crucial step in preventing bed bugs. The IPM approach focuses on a combination of preventive measures to help manage pest populations thorough inspections, customized treatment plans for your community and ongoing monitoring of your program’s effectiveness. By partnering with your pest control provider to develop an IPM program, you can identify pest pressures unique to your community, maintain open lines of communication around pest pressures with your staff members and establish a documentation process to help mitigate pest sightings and monitor trends.

Bed bug control services help reduce bed bug populations, making your community safer and more comfortable for your residents. By implementing preventive bed bug control measures, senior living communities can demonstrate their commitment to providing a healthy environment for their residents, staff members and visitors, promoting confidence in their long-term care services.

Benjamin Hottel, PhD, BCE, PCQI, is a technical services manager for Rollins LLC. He provides technical support and guidance across all Rollins brands in the areas of training and education, operations and marketing. For more information, email [email protected] or visit

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The opinions expressed in each McKnight’s Senior Living marketplace column are those of the author and are not necessarily those of McKnight’s Senior Living.