Do Bed Bugs Smell? – find out the truth about these annoying critters

Dave Campbell

Well, aside from seeing bed bugs crawling through your bed sheets, there is one other telling way that you are suffering from a full blown bed bug infestation and that is the foul smell of the bed bugs themselves. So the short answer is yes, they do smell.

Many describe the smell as sickly sweet like almonds or marzipan. Some even suggest that the smell has the hint of ‘off’ coriander, which is both pungent and incredibly tricky to get rid of.

The smell often clings to things other than duvets, bedding and sheets such as certain suede shoes, various types of clothing and even curtains, for example. It has even been known for the smell to linger in wardrobes, sock drawers and in the nook and crannies of bookshelves and behind fixtures and fittings like televisions.

Depending on the severity of the bed bug infestation the ensuing smell can be both subtle or indeed potent. In the worst cases of bed bug infestation, the lingering bed bug smell is often described as smelling like an old, damp and musty towel that is in dire need of throwing out. This damp smell has made many victims of bed bug infestation think that they have a damp problem in their property when in actual fact the problem lies hidden within the dark folds of their bed sheets. In the most extreme of cases, the smell has driven many people out of their homes, citing the fact that the smell lingers like the stench of a dirty locker room.

But why do bed bugs smell?

The reason why bed bugs smell is simply down to their biology. Like many insects such as aphids for example, bed bugs give off certain pheromones when they are in large numbers, when they are alarmed and particularly when they are disturbed. Think of it as the bed bug’s way of communicating with other bed bugs and more specifically any predators it perceives as a threat.

The smell itself is emitted via the bed bug’s scent glands. Another way in which the bed bug emits its smell is if the bed bug is crushed. This might be why in a bedroom infested with bed bugs, the bed often smells strongest of bed bugs particularly after someone has slept in the bed for a number of hours. The prolonged use of the bed often results in many crushed bed bugs which in turn results in a stronger bed bug smell.

So, is the bed bug smell dangerous?

While not particularly dangerous in and of itself, the bed bug smell indicates that there is a prevalent bed bug infestation which means there are associated health risks. Beg bug infestations can result in multiple bite wounds that when itched can get infected. Equally bed bug infestations mean that all infested linen has been contaminated with their droppings, often of your very own blood, which means that the area of infestation becomes dirtier and more unhygienic over time. There are even cases of people having an allergic reaction to bed bug bites, with some people having to be hospitalised for urgent medical care.

The bed bug smell might very well be dangerous in the sense of sleep deprivation. The constant smell of bed bugs and the knowledge of the underlying infestation will undoubtedly have a negative impact upon people’s sleeping patterns. Sleep deprivation is known to have negative effects on people’s physical, emotional and mental well being. This makes it imperative that the bed bug smell is dealt with, and the only way in which the bed bug smell can be eliminated is by eliminating the underlying source of the problem; the bed bug infestation itself.

Solutions that work

Getting rid of bed bug infestations requires professional help. A pest controller will often use a variety of techniques to get rid of bed bugs. On average female bed bugs will lay upwards of 200 eggs in a lifetime at a ratio of between 2 and 3 a day. This means that at any one time a house is infested twice over. The first infestation is the one with active bed bugs, the second is the impending infestation when the hundreds of bed bug eggs hatch. Therefore the professional will use chemical treatments for both active bed bugs and indeed the eggs, and offer cleaning services to remove the bed bug debris from the property.

In terms of removing the bed bug smell once the bed bug infestation has been dealt with, there are a number of things that can be done. Primarily washing all linens and upholstery in a high wash with strong smelling detergent can remove the smell. Deodorising detergents are also a good idea for the most stubborn of smells. However if you prefer a more natural way of deodorising, then natural alternatives like white vinegar and bicarbonate of soda are excellent at removing the bed bug smell without the need for harsh chemicals.

You can also remove the bed bug smell by vacuuming things like mattresses and pillows. Washing down wardrobes, desks and bookshelves will also weaken the smell. Furthermore, airing off all laundered linen, clothes and upholstery in the outdoor air will really help to ‘air out’ the foul smell. Fresh outdoor air will gradually remove the bed bug odour and also direct sunlight will equally get to work at dissolving any left over odour particles from the initial bed bug infestation.

So to recap, in answer to the question, ‘do bed bugs smell?’ the answer is a most definite yes! Bed bugs do smell, and there is not a lot you can do about the smell unless you deal with the bed bugs themselves. Therefore it is vitally important that if you suspect that you are in the clutches of a bed bug infestation, that you do something about the infestation rather than the smell. Spraying a few air freshening aerosols around the house or lighting a few scented candles will only mask the smell, not eliminate it. The only way to eliminate the smell of bed bugs, is to eliminate the bed bugs themselves.


Dave Campbell

I'm Dave Campbell and the owner of You can read more about me and my background on my About Me page.

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