Bed Bug Smell | How to Identify and Eliminate it Effectively

Written by Thomas Matthews

When you learn to identify exactly how bed bugs smell, you will slowly start winning the battle against bed bugs. You will be able to find areas of infestations with ease. Fortunately, these insects really do produce a certain odor that is easy to distinguish.

People react to smells differently in their own ways. Coriander is frequently described as being smelled, but rotten raspberries are another common description. Others describe a strong acidic smell or one that smells like almonds.

In case you want to find out more information about the smell of bed bugs and figure out whether or not your cat or dog can smell the insects, then keep on reading!

Do Bed Bugs Smell Bad?

The bigger the actual infestation, the more intense the smell will be. Bed bugs don’t exactly smell bad. However, the odor can be unpleasant. The smell is quite ‘sweet‘ and you surely can walk in and even sleep in a room that has such an odor.

Why Do Bed Bugs Smell?

The bed bugs get out of their secret hiding place (during the night, most of the time) and prepare for a feast. In fact, these creatures can feed for up to 10 minutes! During this time, the bugs will bite you and suck your blood.

The creatures certainly need to move from their hideaway to you and back. While they’re crawling around, bed bugs discard their exoskeletons. Moreover, these insects will leave the digested blood meals (excretions) on the bed as well. All these things will accumulate and, ultimately, cause the smell.

Moreover, male bed bugs secrete certain pheromones. This trick is used to attract the female bugs and that also contributes to the bouquet of odors.

Why Do Bed Bugs Smell When You Kill Them?

Why Do Bed Bugs Smell When You Kill Them

It is relatively easy to squash a bed bug once you find one. The bed bugs are much more difficult to kill, in case they haven’t eaten for a while. However, the bed bugs that have had a good hunt/meal and the nymphs are very easy to squash, as they are soft.

However, you better avoid killing bed bugs on your own because of the consequences. They can leave stains that are very difficult to get rid of. Moreover, alive bed bugs are not the only ones that have a certain smell. The ones that are killed have a distinct odor as well.

Bed bugs are quite interesting because they have ‘alarm pheromones’. These chemicals are released to warn the other bed bugs that something bad is happening and that they have to ‘run for their lives’. These pheromones have a smell similar to the regular odor, however, these ones can contain a few other chemicals. All-in-all, it will still be a smell that is similar to coriander or moldy clothes.

In case the bed bugs have had dinner not that long ago, you will also be able to smell blood once you squash them.

Can Dogs Smell Bed Bugs?

Can Dogs Smell Bed Bugs

We know that dogs can be used to detect bombs, drugs, and a wide range of other things. Surprisingly, dogs can also be effectively used to detect bed bug infestations.

In case the dog is trained well, it can detect very small infestations. Sometimes, one single bed bug is enough. Moreover, the dogs can differentiate live bugs from old infestations.

So, dogs certainly can smell bed bugs but there are times when they can’t detect them, even if they are present in the house. The detection depends on a variety of factors. The airflow, the location of the bed bugs, and even the temperature can affect the effectiveness of the whole operation. The dog might fail in case the bed bugs are located above the animal’s head and the airflow is ‘pulling’ the smell even higher.

However, in the majority of cases, a well-trained dog can easily detect a bed bug infestation.

Can Cats Smell Bed Bugs?

You can’t expect your cat to eat bed bugs or chase them. There is no proof that will help us figure out whether cats can smell bed bugs or not, but the majority of owners confess that their cats really do help them detect bed bugs.

By the way, some people use cat litter to get rid of bed bugs. They do this by crushing it into a fine powder and sprinkling it around the furniture. Bed bugs dehydrate and die as a result of that.

What Smell Do Bed Bugs Hate?

Fortunately, there are plenty of smells that bed bugs hate, and some oils and products can even help you get rid of these nasty creatures:

Lavender Oil

Naturenics Lavender Essential Oil | 100% USDA Organic Therapeutic Grade | Aromatherapy to Promote Relaxation, Sleep, Tension Relief | For Diffuser & Topical Use | Roll On Bottle & eBook- 1 Fl Oz
  • Lavender Scent: Contains pure lavender essential oil for a...
  • Detoxifying and Soothing: Helps cleanse and relax the body and...
  • Gluten Free: Made without gluten ingredients for a pure essential...
  • All Season Use: Can be used in any season for aromatherapy...
  • 1 Fl Oz Bottle: Comes in a 1 fluid ounce bottle for aromatherapy...

We all know that lavender can help you sleep better. But, in our case, the oil of this plant can simultaneously solve two problems as bed bugs hate the aroma. You can either freely spray the oil in your bedroom or have lavender as a plant in your bed bug-infested room.

Tea Tree Oil

Naturenics Tea Tree Essential Oil | 100% USDA Organic Melaleuca Alternifolia Therapeutic Grade | Natures Solution for Acne, Lice, Toenail Fungus, Hair, Face,Skin Problems | Roll On & eBook - 1 Fl Oz
  • 100% Pure Organic Tea Tree Oil: This oil has been distilled and...
  • Recovery Essential Oil: Helps with Acne , Psoriasis , Athletes...
  • Incredible Skin Benefits: Tea tree oil drops can improve your...
  • Amazing Hair Benefits & More: You can mix this with shampoo for...

You can use tea tree oil to make the bugs leave your house. They will run away from the scent because it can affect their exoskeleton. You can also freely spray this oil in your bedroom.


No products found.

Spraying rubbing alcohol can help eliminate over half of the bed bugs’ population. Moreover, the scent will prevent insects from laying eggs. However, the smell of alcohol is not always tolerated by humans as well.

Diatomaceous Earth

HARRIS Diatomaceous Earth Food Grade, 2lb with Powder Duster Included in The Bag
  • Natural Product - Composed of 2lbs of 100% ground freshwater...
  • OMRI Listed - Listed with the Organic Minerals Research...
  • Powder Duster Included - Powder duster in the bag for easy and...
  • Supports a Great Cause - Harris donates 10% of profits to support...
  • Made in the USA – Mined in Nevada and packaged in Georgia

This is a powder that has been made from fossilized algae. A lot of insects don’t only hate the smell of diatomaceous earth, but the powder can also destroy the exoskeleton of the bed bugs.

Blood Orange Oil

Edens Garden Orange- Blood Essential Oil, 100% Pure Therapeutic Grade (Undiluted Natural/Homeopathic Aromatherapy Scented Essential Oil Singles) 30 ml
  • Blood Orange is a stroll through your hometown’s orchard —...
  • Blood Orange is valued by aromatherapists for its invigorating...
  • Women-owned and family-operated since 2009, we personally source...
  • As the leader in the essential oils industry, we value safety,...
  • Each of our products is expertly formulated and hand-poured,...

You can put this scent in a special diffuser or simply spray it all over the pillowcases and the mattress. Blood orange oil is one of the most effective solutions to a bed bug infestation.

Neem Oil

Maybe, not the most common ingredient. However, neem oil will make the bed bugs run from your house. By the way, it is also great against mosquitoes.


The insects simply can’t handle this smell. You can use cinnamon as a separate ingredient or any kind of product that contains this spice to successfully fight bed bug infestation.


It is better to use fresh lemon juice as it has a very strong smell. However, bed bugs hate all citruses.


You can use peppermint oil or fresh leaves to get rid of the bed bugs and keep your house smelling fresh and clean.

Can Bed Bugs Smell Humans?

Can Bed Bugs Smell Humans

The truth is that the hormones produced by human beings and our smell do not attract bed bugs. However, there are certain things in humans that do attract these insects.

Bed bugs like the heat that our bodies emit and they get drawn to places with higher CO2 concentrations (the gas that we exhale). In case you are emitting heat – you have warm blood, that’s exactly what the bed bugs are looking for. Moreover, the levels of CO2 will show the insects that you have fallen asleep and that now you are vulnerable.

How to Get Rid of Bed Bug Smell? | Step-by-Step Instructions

The most effective method to get rid of bed bugs is by calling the professionals. However, there are some DIY methods that can help you eliminate the problem. Certainly, the best way to get rid of the bed bug smell is by getting rid of the actual bugs because there is no point in cleaning after them. You have to get rid of them for good.

Follow this DIY method to get rid of them and their smell:

Step 1: Prepare the Area

Remove all sheets, covers, stuffed toys, and other personal items. All these things have to be washed in extremely hot water (around 120 degrees). Everything should be cleaned with a vacuum cleaner (ideally, at least a few times per week).

Step 2: Attack the Insects

You can use a steam machine to kill the bed bugs. Steam the bedroom furniture, get in the cracks, and under the carpet. Finally, you can use a special bed bug spray.

PurSteam 10-in-1 Steam Mop, Floor Steamer with Detachable Handheld Steam Cleaner for Tile, Hardwood Floors
  • Chemical Free Cleaning – PurSteam 10-in-1 Steam Mop uses the...
  • Heats in 30 Seconds – Quickly steam mop hardwood floors and...
  • Handheld Steamer – Detach the steamer for clothes or use it as...
  • Light & Maneuverable – The mop head swivels to reach around and...
  • Accessories – Our electric mop comes with small/big brushes, an...

Step 3: Use Aroma Oils

After that, you can use some of the products and spices that we have mentioned above to make any bed bugs that have been left behind die.

How to Get Rid of Bed Bug Spray Smell?

Unfortunately, not only bed bugs have a specific smell. The spray that can be used to get rid of the insects can have a strong aroma as well. Moreover, the substance can actually be bad for your health.

The only thing that you can do is thoroughly ventilate the house. Open the windows and leave them that way for a few hours at least.

Instead of a bug spray, you can try using a mixture of oil and water. Peppermint, for example, it will make your home smell nice and, of course, help get rid of bed bugs.

List of Sources

Potter, M. Bed Bugs. Extension Entomologist, University of Kentucky College of Agriculture.
Bedbugs. Mayo Clinic.
Koehler PG, Pereira RM, Pfiester M, Hertz J. (July 2011). Bed bugs and blood-sucking conenose. EDIS.

Thomas Matthews
Follow me

Leave a Comment