What Do Cockroaches Smell Like? | Distinctive Odors and Elimination Tips

Written by George Climer

Have you ever experienced a nasty smell after entering your home? A specific odor can indicate the type of pest that has infested your home or apartment as most of the pests release a peculiar smell which can help in their identification. One of the most common pests that produce an unpleasant and disgusting smell are cockroaches.

What do cockroaches smell like? Cockroaches are one of the smelliest insects. However, you may not notice their smell when they are low in numbers. Cockroaches release a disgusting oily smell that is usually pungent, musty, acidic, or even intense in some cases. Cockroaches emit distinct scents from chemicals such as cuticular hydrocarbons, pheromones, and oleic acid.

Related: How to Get Rid of Cockroach Smell? | Information and Facts

In the following section, we have provided all the facts and information about the scents that different types of cockroaches emit in specific situations. Further, we have also shared a list of scents that cockroaches don’t like. Let’s begin!

Do Cockroaches Smell? | Information

A small infestation of cockroaches may go unnoticed. However, a large number of cockroaches emit an unpleasant smell which is intensified with an additional increase in their number. Cockroaches release specific chemicals or pheromones under different conditions, and the smell produced from these chemicals can vary according to different situations.

Do Cockroaches Smell

They secrete pheromones to attract other cockroaches or to communicate with each other, these pheromones have an oily or acidic smell. Similarly, cockroaches emit a distinct disgusting smell when they die or want to attract a mate for breeding purposes.

Do Cockroaches Smell When You Kill Them?

Cockroaches release a peculiar smell when they die. This smell warns other cockroaches about danger or potential threats. This is likely to be an evolutionary adaption of cockroaches that enables other roaches to avoid those places and to survive in harsh conditions.

This musty and oily smell is triggered by a chemical compound called oleic acid or linoleic acid (fatty acid compounds) that cockroaches release when they die. The decomposition of cockroaches creates a foul smell known as a death stench.

What Smell May Be a Sign That Cockroaches Are Present?

The smell of a single roach might be undetectable but when this distinct smell is combined with the smell of other cockroaches, it can be easily noticed. Their oily, musty smell is emitted by chemicals called cuticular hydrocarbons. These chemicals are attached to the legs and body of cockroaches and help to send messages to other roaches about safe shelter and feeding sources.

During mating season, cockroaches produce sex pheromones as well that have a foul soy sauce or oily smell to attract their mates. The oily, musty smell of the decomposing body of dead roaches (death stench) is also a sign of cockroach colonization.

Their smell can be easily distinguished from the smell of other pests due to their specific stench. For example, bed bugs release a sweet odor, and rats produce ammonia heavy smell, whereas cockroaches emit an oily, musty, pungent odor that is very unpleasant.

Do Cockroaches Leave a Smell?

The cockroaches eat rotten food, garbage, or decomposing matter and that is mainly the reason why they leave a nasty smell behind. The smell can stay in your home even if you eliminate the cockroach infestation. This is due to the remaining skin sheddings, droppings, or other body parts of cockroaches that have a terrible smell.

To remove the odor completely, wipe all the droppings, skin, and dead roaches. You can also use an air purifier to get rid of the remaining smell.

Do Cockroaches Smell Bad?

Cockroaches leave a pungent, oily, musty, rancid soy sauce smell when they touch a surface. The smell is being produced due to certain chemicals such as cuticular hydrocarbons, pheromones, or fatty acids compounds (oleic acid). The foul odor can be offensive, unpleasant, and unbearable in severe cases. The stench increases with the increase in the number of roaches in the infested area.

Therefore, it also gives you a good estimate of the size of the infestation. If you notice a strong pungent, musty, or acidic smell then immediately call pest control professionals.

Why Do Cockroaches Smell So Bad?

Cockroaches also borrow smell from microorganisms or the places where they live. You may also find them near molds, mildew, decomposing dead insect/animal bodies, or at other places that are full of germs. They coat themself with this smelly garbage or with rotting debris and fungi. This is also one of the reasons why they smell so bad.

Do Cockroach Nests Smell?

Do Cockroach Nests Smell

Cockroaches release aggregation pheromones (cuticular hydrocarbons) in their feces to attract other roaches. This distinct odor is also noticeable in their nests. The smell is quite powerful in their nests in comparison to other areas.

The odor released from cockroach nests can vary slightly depending on their food source. Additionally, the strong smell of skin sheddings, eggs, or droppings can help us to locate their nests.

How Long Does Cockroach Smell Last?

Cockroach smell will last even after their extermination until you remove all body parts, molts, and droppings. 

You may need to replace your infested items and disinfect your entire house (with bleach or using other disinfectants) to completely eliminate the stench. The remaining odor can again attract cockroaches to your house if not dealt with.

Call pest management professionals if there is a larger infestation of cockroaches. They will eradicate the infestation and sanitize your house to prevent their re-infestation.

Can Cats Smell Cockroaches?

Cats are known to have an amazing sense of smell (fourteen times stronger than humans). Due to their strong senses of smell, they can sniff out even the faintest odors and locate cockroaches and other pests in your house. 

If you see your cat sniffing something, then it might be the odor of pheromones that cockroaches have left behind. According to some reports, cats can help to repel cockroach infestation and also detect them at earlier stages.

Can Dogs Smell Cockroaches?

Your pets, such as dogs, have a superior sense of smell. Therefore, they can detect cockroaches and other insects quite easily. Dogs have 300 million scent receptors in their nose, which help them sniff the pheromones left in the feces, molts, or body parts of cockroaches. Dogs find cockroaches efficiently by combining their amazing sense of smell and hearing.

How Do Specific Cockroach Species Smell Like?

How Do Specific Cockroach Species Smell Like

Some species of cockroaches smell worse than others and leave a detestable stench. It does not mean that other species smell better, on the other hand, they all produce a disgusting smell. The smell lingers until the place is sanitized or cleaned properly.

What Do Oriental Cockroaches Smell Like?

Oriental cockroaches are infamous for their terrible smell. A large group of oriental cockroaches releases a strong, pungent, musty odor.

Their nests smell even worse and the odor lingers until the place is properly cleaned and disinfected. You may need to put some effort into completely removing their odor even after their elimination.

Related: How to Get Rid of Oriental Cockroaches? | Information and Facts

What Do German Cockroaches Smell Like?

German cockroaches are one of the most common indoor pests. Although the smell of a few German cockroaches is undetectable they produce a disgusting odor when they are in large numbers. Like oriental cockroaches, German cockroaches also emit oily, musty, and pungent smells that become strong when we move closer to their nests.

The most common reasons for their odor are their droppings, molts, or body parts that they leave behind. Their waste can also be used to locate their shelters and eliminate them. The strong smell of the German cockroaches is an indication of a larger infestation. It is suggested to call pest control professionals if the situation gets out of your hand.

Related: How to Get Rid of German Cockroaches? | Information & Facts

What Do American Cockroaches Smell Like?

American cockroaches are also common indoor pests, that thrive in warm and moist places. They emit oily, musty, pungent smells when they are in large numbers. The smell is produced by bacteria that live in their feces and are attached to their body parts.

Related: How to Get Rid of American Cockroaches? | Information and Facts

What Do Hissing Cockroaches Smell Like?

Madagascar hissing cockroaches are known for their hisses that they produce during fights or to attract their mates. Reportedly, hissing cockroaches produce little or no odor in comparison to other cockroach species. They can be easily handled and are harmless to humans.

What Does Cockroach Poop Smell Like?

Cockroach poop or feces emit a distinct musty (yeast-like) or rotten smell. The odor can be unpleasant and offensive if there is a large number of cockroaches. The odor may go unchecked if there are only one or two droppings.

Even a limited odor of cockroach poop is enough to attract other cockroaches into your house.

What Does Cockroach Urine Smell Like?

Cockroaches do not pee like most insects instead they excrete their nitrogenous wastes (urine) in a semi-solid form. This means that their poop is also their way of peeing.

Their droppings look like coffee grounds or specks of pepper. However, the size of the droppings depends on the size of the cockroach. The cockroach waste gives off a greasy, musty, or pungent smell. The smell becomes stronger if we allow them to accumulate in one place.

Do Cockroaches Have a Sense of Smell? 

Previously, it was believed that cockroaches do not have a sense of smell and that’s why you can find several odorless cockroach baits on the market. However, cockroaches have adopted a strong sense of smell like other insects. They have a special olfactory system in their body and they use these sensors (mostly present on their antennae) to track food and shelter. 

Do Cockroaches Have a Sense of Smell

Cockroaches secrete different types of chemicals or pheromones to send messages, suggestions, or warnings. Sensors help them to smell and detect these pheromones, and to act accordingly.

How Strong Is a Cockroaches Sense of Smell?

Cockroaches have an incredible sense of smell or sensory system. They have extremely sensitive antennae and can feel anything through the slightest touch. According to a study published in Journal Nature Communications, cockroaches have extra genes or chemoreceptors on their antennae, labial palps, and maxillary palps to sense the slightest odors of food or pheromones from a long distance. 

Open trash cans, wrappers, or even crumbs are enough to lure cockroaches into your house. On the way, cockroaches leave scent trails to assist other cockroaches. It also facilitates them to locate safe shelters or food sources inside your house.

Do Cockroaches Smell Food?

Cockroaches are attracted to your house by smelling the scent of food or rotten items. They are usually attracted to the smell of sweet and greasy products, dairy items, crumbs, cardboard, decaying food, rotting kitchen leftovers, garbage, etc. Cockroaches are especially drawn to damp or rotten smells and as a result, give off a strong pungent smell.

How do Cockroaches Smell Food?

The filthy pests have a unique sensory system that is able to locate food or water. Cockroaches have a strong sense of direction. When they feel thirsty and sense a drop of water near them they will use their antennae (using hygroreceptors) to reach the water source. Cockroaches move forward until they reach a nearby water source.

Similarly, they track food and sex pheromones with the help of chemoreceptors present on their antennae. The odor of the food particles drifts in the air and gets attached to their receptors and acts as an electrical stimulus that further guides them in a specific direction.

What Smell Do Cockroaches Hate?

What Smell Do Cockroaches Hate

The most common odors that cockroaches do not like are strong smells such as different perfumes and essential oils. They try to store these offensive odors in their limited memory and avoid them whenever they sniff them using their antennae. However, cockroaches can come back and adapt to particular surroundings if there is a lack of food.

What Smells Repel Cockroaches?

Although scents or sprays cannot permanently deter cockroach infestation, they can keep them away for a time period. Some of the smells that repel cockroaches are the smell of citrus, bay leaves, garlic, cinnamon, coffee ground, onion, bleach, vinegar, mothballs, and essential oils of eucalyptus, lavender, citronella, mint, rosemary, oregano, tea tree, etc.

They can be applied in the different sections of the house or at the entry points. However, this is a temporary measure, using integrated pest management methods to effectively control their invasion.

Do Cockroaches Hate the Smell of Bleach?

Bleach is a powerful disinfectant, it can be used to clean/disinfect smells that can attract cockroaches in your house. They also find the smell of bleach offensive and try to avoid it. Bleach is able to break down the cells of organisms (microorganisms and pests), which eventually causes them to die.

However, it is not a preferable roach deterrent because it fades away quickly and can harm humans if inhaled. You can use a diluted spray of bleach to prevent cockroach infestation. It will kill them only upon direct contact.

Do Cockroaches Hate the Smell of Alcohol?

Cockroaches hate strong smells like rubbing alcohol. It can be used to kill cockroaches on direct contact. It damages their exoskeleton and suffocates them to death. However, it is not an effective method as cockroaches tend to avoid the smell of rubbing alcohol and immediately hide when they feel threatened.

However, they show attraction to some alcoholic beverages like beer. Cockroaches are drawn to anything that has sugar. 

Do Cockroaches Hate the Smell of Lavender?

Cockroaches hate the smell of lavender because it releases aromatic compounds that can help to keep them away. You can grow lavender plants in your home or garden to prevent a cockroach infestation. It creates a barrier that works against roaches and other insects.

According to recent studies, lavender oil can be used as a biopesticide to repel cockroaches and other insects.

You can apply lavender essential oil spray at entry points of your house or near potential nesting sites to get rid of cockroaches. Try mixing basil oil, citronella oil, or lemon oil in the spray to increase its effectiveness against cockroaches.

Do Cockroaches Hate the Smell of Peppermint?

Peppermint plants contain menthol that repels cockroaches, ants, and several other insects. Cockroaches hate peppermint due to its strong pungent smell. Peppermint essential oil or plant extract is also a great alternative to artificial pesticides.

Prepare the peppermint solution by adding a few drops of oil to water and also you can add some vinegar to increase its efficiency. Additionally, you can also buy a Mighty Mint (Natural Peppermint Oil Spray) that works wonders against them.

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Do Cockroaches Hate the Smell of Perfume?

There is not simple answer to the question if cockroaches hate or like the smell of perfume. It depends upon the ingredients present in the perfume. If the perfume contains essential oils like citrus oil, lavender oil, peppermint oil, or other cockroach deterrents then it will definitely repel cockroaches. On the other hand, if your perfume has fruit extracts, sweeteners, or other attractants then it will possibly attract them.

Do Cockroaches Hate the Smell of Vinegar?

Cockroaches hate the strong smell of vinegar. It is also used as a pest deterrent and disinfectant. Vinegar is one of the best alternatives to bleach. You can mix vinegar in essential oil spray to prepare a powerful pest control solution. It is amazing for cleaning the kitchen counters as vinegar removes the food scents and prevents cockroach invasions. Have in mind that this is just a temporary control measure.

What Smell Do Cockroaches Like?

What Smell Do Cockroaches Like

Cockroaches like the smell of moist, rotten, and decomposing products. They are also drawn to the sweet, starchy, and greasy smells of food.

Cockroaches are attracted to dried sugar, sweet cereals, apple pie, or other sweet products, also greasy items, and starchy products. However, they prefer the odors of rotten items such as rotten garbage, decaying debris, litter, or mulches.

They are specifically attracted to the damp smell of wet cardboard, damp paper, or packages. According to a research article, investigating cockroach behavior could lead to better baits, as cockroaches are especially attracted to the smell of beer and bread.

Related: What Attracts Cockroaches? | Information and Facts

Do Cockroaches Like the Smell of Garlic?

Garlic releases a strong pungent smell which can be used to keep the pests away. Cockroaches do not like the smell of garlic due to its strong odor. Therefore, you can use garlic powder or garlic clove to prevent cockroach invasion. Place the garlic clove near the holes and entry points of your house to avoid cockroach infestation. Replace the garlic clove with a new one when it begins to rot.

Do Cockroaches Like the Smell of Incense?

Cockroaches do not like burning incense therefore, you can use it to get rid of them. If you hold burning incense near the nesting sites of cockroaches, the smoke will drive them out of cracks or other shelters. Incense contains natural ingredients (such as essential oils) that prevent the infestation of roaches in your house.

Do Cockroaches Like the Smell of Lemon?

Cockroaches do not like the smell of lemon or other citrus fruits. They release a strong aroma that repels cockroaches and other insects. Place lemon skin near entry points, windows, doors, and on kitchen counters and cupboards to keep cockroaches away.

Do Cockroaches Like the Smell of Mint?

Mint plants are natural insecticides, used to control mosquitoes, fleas, cockroaches, and other pests. Cockroaches do not like the pungent smell of mint plants and their essential oils. The smell of mint can distract the roaches and other pests and force them to change their location/shelter.

The most common mint plants are peppermint, spearmint, scotch spearmint, apple mint, etc. Peppermint is famous for its excellent insecticidal properties.

Do Cockroaches Like the Smell of Pinesol?

Pine-sol is a disinfectant, commonly used as a household cleaning product. Cockroaches and other bugs hate the smell of pine sol. It helps to remove the scent trails in your house and prevent their infestations. You can also use a mixture of pine sol and bleach solution against them.

Do Cockroaches Like the Smell of Tea?

Cockroaches like anything that has a fruity or damp smell. If you leave your wet tea bags or brewed tea leaves on your kitchen shelf it will attract cockroaches and other insects. Do not leave your wet tea bags on shelves or in open garbage cans overnight.

Do Cockroaches Like the Smell of Weed?

Cockroaches like the smell of decaying plants especially the smell of tobacco cigarette butts. For a similar reason, they are also attracted to weed. Cockroaches like damp and decaying cigarette waste and are readily drawn toward them. Do not leave cigarette butts in the room to minimize the chances of them invading your house.

List of Sources

Hopkins, J.D. Cockroach Identification and Management for the Homeowner HANDOUT. Division of Agriculture reach and extension, University of Arkansas.

Wisman, A. and Shrira, I. (2015). The smell of death: evidence that putrescine elicits threat management mechanisms. Frontiers in Psychology, 6, p.1274.

Rivault, C., Cloarec, A. and Sreng, L. (1998). Cuticular extracts inducing aggregation in the German cockroach, Blattella germanica (L.). Journal of Insect Physiology, 44(10), pp.909-918.

Koehler, P., Miller, D. and McCoy, T. (1998). Research Into Cockroach Behavior Could Lead To Better Baits. University of Florida.

Li, S., Zhu, S., Jia, Q., Yuan, D., Ren, C., Li, K., Liu, S., Cui, Y., Zhao, H., Cao, Y. and Fang, G. (2018). The genomic and functional landscapes of developmental plasticity in the American cockroach. Nature communications, 9(1), pp.1-11.

Petersen, D. (2017). Green Cleaning: 10 Essential oils that naturally repel insects. American College of Healthcare sciences.