Below is a guest column from Roscoe the Bed Bug Dog.  He’s taking a break from his Facebook and Twitter posts to write a longer commentary here on Bell Environmental’s Blog. For more frequent comments from Roscoe with bed bug advice and lots of pop culture references, become a fan on Facebook and follow him on Twitter.

As the bed bug epidemic grows throughout the New York metropolitan area, it seems that bed bugs are everywhere. These creatures have the ability to get just about anywhere and have really touched a nerve in people.  During my thousands of inspections each year, I’ve had countless offers from people who want me to be their bodyguard against these insects in their home, office, movie theater, favorite store, gym, stadium, bus or subway. I’ve had invitations to go to fancy hotels.  I’ve heard of people sewing Roscoe costumes for Halloween. I’ve even gotten a few marriage proposals from some really cute beagles.

Dogs are luckier than people. We have Frontline to ward off insects, and bed bugs don’t like us because of our fur. Humans are susceptible to bites, and the stress and sleepless nights after encounters. Bed bugs take a toll on friendships as well.  I have several clients who are afraid of bringing these bed bugs to their friends, and some who missed family holidays and events!

Though it’s impossible for me to visit everyone every day, I have some practical advice so residents and visitors can and should return to enjoying New York and resume life without fear.  The best protection against bed bugs – aside from owning a dog like me — is daily vigilance.  Take these important steps to lower the likelihood of being affected by these hitchhiking bugs:

  • Invest in a dryer. Many apartments don’t have their own, but a dryer can be bed bugs’ worst enemy since they can’t survive the high heat.  Because these bed bugs are great hitchhikers, you may be able to kill them before they’ve had a chance to unload from your pants cuff into your home.
  • Stock up on plastic bags.  When you return home from public places that you believe are suspect, immediately disrobe and place your clothing in sealed plastic bags.  Place that clothing in the dryer or send it to drycleaner, and throw out that bag!
  • Once home, store your personal goods (purse, laptop bag, etc.) inside sealed a plastic bin.
  • When at the gym, keep your gym bag and clothes in a large, sealable plastic bag inside your locker.
  • Eliminate clutter from your apartment. Bed bugs love to hide in clutter (why do humans love to have so much “stuff” anyway?”)
  • Periodically inspect your home and your hotel room for signs of bed bugs using a how to guide from a reputable pest control company or the industry association. There are even free applications for smartphones.
  • Don’t let family members bring you bed bugs. When your child arrives home from college, place all of your child’s clothes and bags in the dryer on high heat for 15-20 minutes and inspect all their personal goods.
  • Talk with your neighbors and friends about your efforts – you may help someone else avoid this urban plague.  If you employ cleaning people or other in-house help, share these tips with them as well.

While this bed bug prevention list seems like a great deal of work, consider how much worse it is to live through a bed bug infestation, and the paranoia that victims rightfully have afterward.  Most of all, remain friendly to people who are affected by this urban plague. A dog may be man’s best friend, but it shouldn’t be their only friend when they have bed bugs.  We’re all in this together!