3:00 PM EDT, September 22, 2010
They're the bugs that are gripping the nation in a state of fear.
Bed bugs have turned up in some of the largest retail stores in the country. Frightened shoppers want to know...are these bugs not only hiding out in their beds, but in their clothing as well?
To find out, INSIDE EDITION enlisted our newest undercover investigative reporter, Apollo the beagle, a certified bed bug-detecting dog.
The first stop was Macy's in New York's Herald Square, perhaps the most famous department store in the world.
We discreetly carried Apollo inside a bag, then put him on a leash and put him to work. He wandered in and out of the racks, sniffing clothing.
Apollo's handler, Teresa Miranda from pest control company First Rate Solutions, Inc., says no bed bugs were found. As far as Apollo is concerned, Macy's is in the clear.
The next stop was T.J. Maxx. Again, as discreetly as possible, Apollo smelled shoes, luggage, and clothes. He was so eager to find something he even stood on his hind legs to take a sniff.
There were no bed bugs there either.
At other stores we even checked the dressing rooms, which are said to be a favorite spot for bed bugs. Once again, not one bed bug found.
Then we went to check out some of the stores where bed bugs had recently been found, Abercrombie & Fitch and Hollister.
Both stores have since reopened, but have the problems really been eliminated?
INSIDE EDITION had Apollo investigate and we're happy to report no bed bugs were found in those stores.
So is the bed bug epidemic all hype? It may be comforting to know there are still plenty of places you can shop and not end up leaving with a bed bug in your clothes.
Tips for Avoiding Bed Bugs
Clean up the clutter -- A cluttered home provides more places for bed bugs to hide and makes locating and treating for them more difficult.
If bed bugs are in your mattress, using a mattress/box spring encasements makes it more difficult them to get to you while you sleep. To be effective they must be left in place for a year.
Frequently wash and heat-dry your bed linens, bed spreads, and clothing that touches the floor to reduce bed bug populations. Bed bugs and their eggs can hide in laundry containers/hampers so clean them when you do the laundry.
Avoid dust ruffles/bed skirts on your bed as this serves not only as a good hiding place for bed bugs, but as an easy means for the insects to travel from the floor to your bed, box spring, mattress and to you.
If you have a headboard, it would be prudent to have a minimum 2 inch space between it and the wall in order to make access to your bed and you that much more difficult for the bedbugs.
Never bring used bedding or furniture into your home until you have inspected the items thoroughly and are comfortable with the means in which the items have been transported to your home. Unfortunately, many delivery vehicles have unknowingly become infested with bed bugs due to removing items from customer homes.
Protect your bedding with quality bed bug bedding protection products. Encasements are an important component in protecting your property, making the inspection and treatment process much easier for your Pest Management Professional, and help eliminate added stress and expense of possibly replacing these items.
When possible, take off your shoes BEFORE entering your house, and make sure your visitors do the same. Bed bugs have been known to travel on peoples shoes and lay their eggs there.
Thorough vacuuming reduces populations. Carefully vacuum rugs, floors, under beds, around bed legs, bed frames, and all cracks and crevices around the room. Thoroughly vacuum upholstered furniture. Change the bag after each use so the bed bugs can't escape. Place the used bag in a tightly sealed plastic bag and in an outside garbage bin. will reduce the populations.
Don't pass your bed bugs on to others. Bed bugs are excellent hitchhikers. If you throw out a piece of furniture that is harboring bed bugs, take steps to destroy the item so that no one else adopts it (along with the bugs!).
Don't panic. Eliminating bed bugs is difficult, but it is not impossible. Don't throw out all of your belongings; most of them can be treated and saved. Throwing out belongings is costly, may spread the infestation, and could be unnecessarily stressful.
If traveling home on public transportation, keep clothing bags elevated, preferably in your hand or on top of metal, which bed bugs cannot easily climb on.
Wash newly purchased clothing as soon as you get it using high temperatures ensures that any bed bugs that may have been laying in wait cannot survive.
If you do discover you bought clothing with bed bugs, wash it immediately in the hottest setting you have, and notify the store so they don't continue selling clothing that may have bed bugs.
Using a public dressing room? Try not to put your stuff down on non-metal and un-elevated surfaces. See a pile of clothes that aren't yours? Keep them separate from your own.
When you travel, be sure to inspect your hotel room for bed bugs. Travel is the #1 most common way bed bugs are spread. Protect yourself when you travel with travel pillow protectors, and laundry bags.
Pull back the hotel bed sheets and inspect the mattress seems, particularly the corners for brown or reddish stains.
Inspect the room before unpacking - Do not put your luggage on the bed.
When you return home, inspect and vacuum your suitcases before bringing them into the case.
Wash all your clothes - whether worn or not in hot water.