When it comes to entertaining at your apartment this holiday season—or being entertained at someone else's—the city's bed bug problem has added a layer of complexity to the usual how-do-we-fit-35-people-into-the-living-room machinations.
“It’s a thin line between paranoid and prudent,” says Gil Bloom, bed bug expert and president of Standard Pest Management. We asked Bloom and the folks at M&M Pest Control for some tips for party-givers and party-goers in the Age of Bed Bugs.
Rules for guests:
Rule #1: Pick your parties
Check the bedbugregistry before RSVP’g to see if your host's building is dealing with a scourge of bed bugs. (Note: This only applies to rental buildings.)
Rule #2: Travel lightly
Just as you should reduce your footprint when you go to the movies, you should reduce the amount of stuff you bring to a friend's house. If you don’t need a coat, leave it elsewhere. Downsize your mom purse (or any carry-along you will be tempted to offload at the first opportunity) for a wearable bag or nothing at all.
Find Your Next Home
Rule #3: No purses or coats on the bed
In an infested apartment, beds are, obviously, bed bug central, so putting your stuff there is the surest way to mainline those guys right into your belongings. Wherever your coat winds up, give it a good thorough shaking before you put it back on, just as you should when you take it out of any coat check these days.
Rule #4: Be a stand-up guest
“Just as most of us may not sit on the subways as often as we used to, standing up and talking amongst friends may keep you safer in the long run, since bed bugs tend to favor the comfort of couches,” notes M&M’s Natalie Raben.
Rule #5: Before you hit the sheets, hit the dryer
Put your clothes in the dryer on high heat for at least half an hour after you get home to kill any hitchhikers.
Rules for hosts:
Rule #1: No purses or coats on the bed.
If your guests happen to bring along a hitchhiker or two, this is the easiest and most direct way to introduce those bed bugs into your life. A temporary clothes rack in the hallway outside your apartment is ideal, and you can put out a plastic bin in the front hall for bags. Depending on the general level of bed bug paranoia among your crowd, you could also pass out giant Ziplocs for each guest to seal up their belongings for the night. They may even thank you.
Rule #2: Keep ‘em moving
Sofas are bed bugs' second favorite place, just after your bed. Push your furniture to the wall and encourage people to stand up and mingle rather than lounge on your sofa and offload a stray bed bug or two.
Rule #3: Inspect your guests
This isn’t a rule, but more of a topical party game to provide amusement and peace of mind, and it hopefully won’t end with any of your guests refusing to speak to you ever again: “Hire a bed bug dog team and inspect folks as the come in through the door,” suggests Bloom. “Earlier arrivals could bet on their status. Just to really liven things up, plant the control vial on the most attractive people.” Bloom also suggests in jest (we think) a BYOBB (Bring Your Own Bedbug Bag) party, in which guests dress up in Tyvek suits for New Year’s Eve.
Rule #4: The morning-after vacuum
Vacuum thoroughly after your guests leave, including upholstered furniture and the area where coats were stored. Put the vacuum bag in a sealed bag and dispose of it.
Rule #5: Enjoy yourself
As Bloom notes, we don't live in a bubble. Life goes on, and getting bed bugs isn't like getting cancer: "The key thing is to learn the signs, check your home occasionally and if you suspect bed bugs, take action."