How Do Bed Bugs Smell Like

Bed Bug Smell

What Do Bed Bugs Smell Like?

When bed bugs attach themselves to people or clothing, often in infested public places, they can be inadvertently introduced into homes. People can spot signs of an infestation in a number of ways, including by odor. A musty, sweet smell, often likened to berries, is commonly attributed to these pests. It often takes a large infestation to detect this bed bug smell.

Other signs of infestation include:

  • Dark blood stains on sheets and bedding.
  • Itchy, irritated skin from bites.

Impact of Bed Bugs Infestations

The presence of these small pests is unsettling for many people. During the evening, bed bugs use an anesthetic in their saliva to bite people without being detected. They tend to focus on the head and neck, but will attack any exposed skin. Although their bites cause discomfort, the pests are not known to spread diseases. They are, however, extremely difficult to control.

Detection & Removal

Most insects have defense mechanisms and bed bugs are no exception. Bed bugs use an alarm pheromone to increase mobility in response to certain situations. This causes bed bugs to move away from areas of the home, often foiling removal attempts.

This bed bug smell is an effective way for the pests to communicate and remain hidden. Because of their elusiveness, it is best to contact the professionals at Orkin for effective removal.

Do Bed Bugs Smell? Why and What Can You Do About It?

If you are reading this, you probably know that bed bugs have made a comeback. If you are dealing with a particularly large infestation, then you are also probably dealing with a nasty ‘buggy’ odor around your sleeping quarters. Yes, bed bugs smell and the description of this smell will vary based on who you ask. Some people report bed bug smell as a sickeningly ‘sweet smell of almonds’; still others claim it to be ‘woody’, while a third group claims it to be like “the smell of rotten raspberries”. In general: bed bug smell is nothing like anything you have experienced before and can also be very annoying.

In this guide, we will see what to do about bed bug smell.

Bed Bug infestation and how it occurs

If you are waking up each night with bite marks on your body, you might not attribute them to bed bugs at first. This is because; most people feel that they simplycannothave bed bugs as their premises are “spotlessly clean”. The thing is: bed bugs do not care how clean or unclean your surroundings are.The fact that you have bed bugs is also (usually) not through any fault of yours: these critters might have simply hitched a ride through your luggage from an infested motel or might have arrived at your doorstep courtesy of a recent guest.

“But I stayed in the best five-star resort!”

Again: immaterial. You might have stayed in the best of the best motels/hotels but even these are not completely devoid of bed bugs.Travelers unknowingly dump bed bug eggs in these places and this is how bed bugs have spread throughout the country. Also, you could even have brought bed bugs home through infested planes or buses.

The question is: what can you do about the bed bug infestation and its foul odor?

What are the reasons behind bed bug smell?

Bed bugs come out of their hiding places at night for a blood meal from you, the host. While you are sleeping, a single bed bug might bite you and could feed for up to 10 minutes. The bugs use the blood to grow and develop and the female bugs also use it for reproduction and laying hundreds of eggs.

As bed bugs move from stage to stage, they discard their exoskeletons. The bed bug smell usually arises due to these discarded shells, as well as the digested or partially digested blood meals. Also, you might see dried blood and rust colored spots around your sleeping quarters. All these factors also contribute to the nasty bitter-sweet smell in your surroundings. The male bed bugs also tend to secrete pheromones for attracting females and a mixture of all these odors contribute to bad bed bug smell in very large infestations.

What to do about bed bug odor?

The solution to getting rid of bed bug smell is to get rid of the infestation.Make sure that you discard all old mattresses and bedroom linen that has been ruined and stained completely thanks to the bed bugs. If you have new mattresses, you could enclose them in mattress encasements. The rest of the washable bed linen needs to be tossed in the washing machine on its highest heat setting preferably 120F. Where applicable, you could use some detergent and bleach to kill bed bug eggs.

Experienced pest controllers know where to look for bed bugs exactly since these critters are known to hide in cracks and crevices. The K9/dog bed bug detection units also use the bed bug smell to find out where bugs are hiding. You could consider enrolling the services of a good pest control company to get rid of the bed bug smell. Also, you can do the following things at home to assist with the professional bed bug eradication:

  1. Strip beds, sofas etc off their upholstery and linen. Toss everything in the washing machine and wash it using highest heat.
  2. Move furniture away from walls so that the professionals can treat areas behind and underneath it.
  3. Items which are not washable must be stored in plastic bags and taken outdoors in the sun and placed there for at least a day. If possible, you could spray the non-electronic items with bed bug sprays or powders.
  4. As stated before, cover the mattress with encasement. Spray and treat the bed’s box spring using bed bug products as advised by the professionals.
  5. Follow good housekeeping measures like vacuuming, wiping down surfaces etc. Your professionals might also use steaming or spot freezing treatment to get rid of bed bugs and the bed bug smell.
  6. EPA registered bed bug products like sprays, aerosols and powders can also be used.
  7. Fumigation through the use of bed bug bombs and foggers is another known method of bed bug elimination.

These are the tried and tested methods of bed bug elimination. Also check other resources on this website to ensure complete eradication of the bed bug smell.

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DO BED BUGS SMELL?

Although adult bed bugs are easily visible with the naked eye, they can be difficult to find. They often avoid light and motion by hiding in dark cracks and crevices during the day. But even if you don’t see them, you might be able to smell them.

Do bed bugs smell?

Like many species of bugs, bed bugs release odors called alarm pheromones. When a group of bed bugs gets disturbed, you may be able to smell that odor. Odors may also result from bed bug fecal material. The odor is described many different ways and has been compared to the smell of coriander, an herb. Older publications even refer to the bed bug as the coriander bug. Others describe the smell as “sweet” or “musty.”

Can my dog smell a bed bug?

Canine scent detection takes advantage of the bed bug smell to find evidence of bed bug activity. Properly trained dogs can do a much better job than humans in telling the scent from other odors that may be present. Because smells can be subjective, and the level of bed bug smell depends on the level of infestation, it is important to remember that all other evidence needs to be considered when looking for evidence of bed bug activity.

What are signs of bed bugs?

There can be many signs that you may have bed bugs, including bloodstains and skins from molting. Small dark brown or black stains on bedding, pillowcases and other furniture can also be a sign that bed bugs are present.

Though many people first become aware of bed bug activity because they were bitten, a skin reaction alone does not necessarily indicate the presence of bed bugs. Many other insects, medical conditions, medicines, allergens and irritants can produce similar skin reactions.

If you see signs of bed bugs in your home, call Terminix® to help you identify and, if needed, control the problem.

Bed Bug Confidential: An Expert Explains How to Defend against the Dreaded Pests

Everything you ever wanted to know about bed bugs but were afraid to ask

  • By Kate Wong on January 23, 2012

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Chances are, you or someone you know has had a run-in with bed bugs. It might have happened in a scrupulously clean bedroom. Or maybe it was a hotel room, office or college dorm. In the February issue ofScientific Americanentomologist Kenneth Haynes of the University of Kentucky explains how, after a lengthy absence, bed bugs are staging a comeback. The good news is scientists are intensively studying these insects, and their insights suggest novel ways of detecting the bugs and eradicating infestations. Some of those potential solutions are a long way off, however. In the meantime the best bet is to avoid bringing bed bugs home in the first place. I called Haynes to ask him how to do that and what to do if one suspects an infestation (eek!), among a bunch of other practical-minded questions.

Do bed bugs only feed on humans?
No. Bed bugs are also pests in poultry operations, and they’re known to parasitize bats. Some labs that study bed bugs rear them on guinea pigs and mice. The bugs might feed on cats and dogs. Fur is probably a barrier to them, but they could feed at any place on the body without fur. Bed bugs are not specific to humans, but they are adapted to parasitizing us.

Could you have a bed bug infestation in your home and not know it?

That’s very possible. I have heard of couples reporting that only one partner is getting bitten. The truth is that both are getting bitten, but only one has a reaction to the bites. Thirty percent of people or more don’t react to bed bug bites at all, and the elderly are less reactive than the rest of the population. Among those people who do react to the bites, most of them don’t respond to early bites, but develop a sensitivity to subsequent ones. Those individuals who are not sensitive to bed bug bites may not know they have an infestation. Because bed bugs are nocturnally active, it’s hard to see other signs of their presence—unless you’re accustomed to waking up at 3 A.M. and taking a census. With a huge infestation, bed bugs start to move away from the bed, so you’re more likely to see one in an exposed place during the day. In very severe infestations people can become anemic. That takes a lot of bugs though—maybe 100,000 feeding once a week or more.

Another clue to infestation is odor. Like many species of bugs, bed bugs release odors called alarm pheromones. When a group of bed bugs gets disturbed, you may get a whiff of that odor, which is similar to the odor stink bugs give off. At higher concentrations the odor is unpleasant. Some people say at low concentrations it’s a pleasant smell—like coriander. In fact, older literature refers to the bed bug as the coriander bug. I’ve tried to smell the coriander scent in bed bug alarm pheromones and have not been able to make the connection, however.

What can one do to avoid getting bed bugs?
The first thing is you have to be able to recognize and distinguish a bed bug from any other insect. Everything starts to look like a bed bug if you start to worry about them. An adult bed bug is about the size and shape of an apple seed. If it has not fed recently it will be flattened and brown. If it has fed it will be round in circumference and reddish. Immature bed bugs have a similar appearance to adults, with the smallest being the size of the head of a pin. You can then learn to look for their fecal spots, which can be easier to detect than the bugs themselves. Check your hotel rooms when you travel. And think twice before bringing home used furniture. If you are purchasing used furniture, ask the furniture store how they deal with bed bugs. If they have no plan whatsoever, that’s probably not a good sign. If you purchase used clothing, put it through a clothes dryer on a medium to high setting for a cycle as soon as you bring it home. And before you move into an apartment, ask the landlord whether there has been a bed bug infestation, or whether the building has ever been treated for bed bugs.

What should one do upon suspecting a bed bug infestation

The first question I would ask that person is, what makes you think you have bed bugs? A skin reaction alone does not necessarily indicate the presence of bed bugs. Other bugs, allergies and irritants in the environment can produce similar skin reactions. And it’s hard to confidently identify a bed bug bite because reactions vary from person to person. My next question would be, have you seen an insect in an area where you sleep and, if so, was it the correct size and shape to be a bed bug? Carpet beetles in an immature stage are commonly mistaken for bed bugs. The carpet beetle actually doesn’t look anything like a bed bug, but it is the right size. And it’s another common insect to have indoors around the bed. If you find an insect that you think is a bed bug, save it in a pill bottle or another container so its key characteristics won’t get crushed and a professional can identify it.

I wouldn’t try to get rid of an infestation on my own. I would call a pest control operator. A good pest control operator will spend a fair amount of time inspecting the place for evidence of bed bugs, and will educate the person on what makes it clear that it’s a bed bug infestation.

Once you have a suspicion or a confirmed infestation, do not spread things outside of the bedroom. Don’t take linens off the bed and go to sleep somewhere else—that will just move the infestation to other rooms. Ultimately pest control operators will tell you to put everything you can through the washer and dryer, since bed bugs cannot withstand high temperatures. I don’t think bed bugs would be able to survive solvent-based dry cleaning, but I don’t have any first-hand knowledge that that’s true. Unfortunately, dry cleaners and Laundromats can be places where people pick up bed bugs. I think it’s a low probability, but it only takes one adult female bed bug that has been mated to get an infestation going.

The safest and most effective approach to getting rid of bed bugs is heat treatment, in which a trained professional heats the home’s rooms one by one to a temperature of 50 degrees Celsius and sustains the heat for four hours. Heat does not penetrate well into wall voids, though, so desiccant dusts are often applied to those areas. No single technique can eliminate bed bugs—combinations of approaches are essential to getting the job done.

What are the mistakes people make in trying to get rid of bed bugs on their own, without professional help?
DIY approaches come with risk. It’s not uncommon for someone to use a pest-control bomb or fogger that is available over the counter. These don’t work well against bed bugs, according to research from Ohio State University. They can also expose people to toxic chemicals. Neither are over-the-counter aerosol insecticides effective against bed bugs. Most of these products have either pyrethrin or a pyrethroid as a main ingredient and those compounds have the same mode of action as DDT, which bed bugs have become resistant to. If you spray the bug directly you might kill it, but that is not going to get rid of the infestation. The problem is finding all the bed bugs. Some just can’t be reached with insecticide. It’s difficult for nonprofessionals to do anything more than kill what they can see, but that’s just the tip of the iceberg in terms of what’s there.

Some of the dusts that are available to consumers, such as diatomaceous earth, can help in this regard. Pest controllers will put dusts in wall voids and other places where pesticide won’t reach. What happens is the bugs will wander through the dust and pick up particles and be more vulnerable to desiccation after that exposure. But dusts will not solve the problem if deployed incorrectly, and if they are applied at too high a level they can cause breathing difficulties in some people.

The Internet abounds with so-called miracle cures for bed bugs. But bed bugs are hard to get rid of, so anything that advertises an immediate solution is not accurate—it’s snake oil. These "cures" have included (as reported by pest control operators who come in afterward to tackle bed bugs correctly) using bleach, ammonia and even DIY heat treatment, which carries fire risk.

Another solution you hear about is vacuuming. You can vacuum up a lot of insects, but eggs are harder to get, and vacuuming won’t in and of itself kill bed bugs. Indeed, vacuuming can end up spreading bed bugs to other rooms—when emptying the canister, for example. Pest control operators who use vacuums take measures to prevent bed bugs from escaping when the vacuum is emptied.

Encasing mattresses is one of many good parts of a solution, but it doesn’t get rid of the infestation. There are going to be other bugs away from the mattress, hiding nearby. What mattress covers are good at is entombing the sometimes large number of bed bugs that can live on a mattress. And because the covers tend to be uniform in color and don’t have a lot of seams that the bugs can hide in, it’s easier to see the insects.

Given that you work with bed bugs, how do you avoid bringing them home?
I have four risk factors. I work with bed bugs in a lab situation, so we have to take extreme precautions to prevent escapes there. I visit infested apartments sometimes. I travel a fair amount, so I may be exposed to bed bugs in hotels. And I’ve had college-age kids, who can bring bed bugs home from dorms.

In the lab we handle all the bed bugs in a specific room that we steam clean once a week, and we have double-stick tape barriers that they can’t walk through (as long as the adhesive remains dust-free). And the bed bugs themselves are enclosed in containers that they can’t get out of. We actually feed them inside those containers—we lay a blood reservoir against the cloth "lid" and the bed bugs have to push their mouthparts through the cloth into the reservoir to eat.

If I go to an infested apartment, then when I leave I check my shoes very carefully for bugs that may have crawled onto them. I also keep a change of clothes in my garage and put them on before entering my house. Once inside, I immediately put the clothes I wore to the infested apartment in the dryer, which is located in a room just off the garage.

When staying in a hotel, I check the bed before I bring the suitcase into the sleeping part of the room so that if I have to ask the manager for another room, then I haven’t exposed my suitcase to the bugs. When settling in, I put my suitcase up on the suitcase stand or the desktop so that any bugs are less likely to crawl into it. An extreme measure would be putting the suitcase in the tub. If it’s a porcelain tub, bed bugs would have a hard time crawling up it. It’s also unlikely that they would randomly crawl up a tub, because it’s not near the bed. But if I don’t see bed bugs in the room when I inspect it, I just put my suitcase on the stand because I know the probability is really low that a bug is going to crawl up the stand and into my suitcase. I keep my clothes in the suitcase or hang them in the closet—I don’t leave them on the floor because wandering bed bugs might crawl into them.

I actually haven’t found bed bugs in my hotel rooms, but I’ve seen them in other peoples’ rooms. Enough of my students and postdocs have found them that I’m surprised I haven’t seen them yet in a room where I’m staying.

How should one check a hotel room for bed bugs?
Bring a little flashlight—hotel room lighting is always pretty poor and the dimmer the lighting, the harder it is to see small bed bugs or their fecal spots. I would pull back the bed covers and look all around the head of the bed. Pull back the sheets, too, and look at mattress seams and edges that are exposed. bed bugs love to hide under mattress tags. Look all around the box springs, too. If there’s a dust ruffle, pull it up and look under it as much as possible. Look for moving bugs and stationary, hiding bugs.

The space behind the headboard is prime bed bug territory. Most headboards are hanging on the wall. If my wife is with me, we’ll remove it and look behind it. This exposes a lot of possible bed bug territory. Even if you don’t remove headboard, look around it. Or if you move the bed out from wall, look at the wall under the headboard.

Bed bugs could also be at the foot of the bed, but they’re more likely to reside at the head of the bed. The foot of the bed, if the sheets are tucked in, doesn’t allow bed bugs easy access to a sleeping host. The bugs would have to come up to the head of the bed to get you, and they typically minimize the distance to the host.

All of the stages of bed bugs are visible, at least if you don’t need reading glasses and you have a sufficient amount of light. So if you’re looking closely enough, you can even see bugs in the nymphal first instar stage. A fecal spot, for its part, can be as large as a bed bug itself in terms of the area it covers. The spots are basically digested blood, so most are dark in color. On a white mattress, they stand out pretty well.

Are there tactics that professional exterminators use that don’t work?
No one tactic alone will be effective. A good pest control operator will develop a strategy to deal with the bed bugs that takes the particulars of the setting into account, and will return several times to check on progress. Dry ice sprays that freeze bed bugs have limited potential to reach hidden bugs. Steam has somewhat better penetrating ability. The downside of steam is that it leaves moisture behind. Dry ice doesn’t leave any residue at all. Vacuuming has a role, but it has limitations, too. Some insecticides leave behind deposits that are slow to act but are effective in the long-term. Other insecticides kill on contact, but only reach insects that are in view. Insecticide resistance makes the choice of tactics more difficult.

An important thing to remember is that good professional pest controllers do get rid of bed bugs. The fine line that bed bug experts have to walk in talking to the public is the line where the anxiety and depression and so forth that can result from thinking about bed bugs too much can cause more problems than the bugs themselves would.

How do bed bugs smell?

To recognize smell of bed bugs is important because you want to be sure if they’re around or not by smelling them. So,what do bed bugs smell like?

Bed bugs

If you are in doubt about the existence of bed bugs, to see them with naked eye will be the best way to be sure. Bed bugs are 1 to 5 mm sized and oval-shaped bugs. They have no wings and have 6 legs.

Smell of bugs

Most bugs will smell when they walk around or you can smell them when they’re dead and their bodies are lying down on your floor.

It’s very hard to differentiate the smell of each bugs. Recognizing and remembering the smell is usually about personal experiences on every bug and smell it before because of any reason.

Bed bug smell

There is no certain way to sayhow bed bugs smell. Because defining a smell is one of the most difficult things in this world.

What I can do is to bring you some descriptions ofbed bug smellmade before by others. I got these definitions from social media after a long research:

“It smells woody/irony when alive.”

“I have a very acute sense of smell and never noticed a smell.”

“They smell kinda like dirt and blood mixed”

“I noticed a general musty smell”

“They smell like musty/moldy raspberries to me.”

“Kind of like a stink bug”

“Old mildew sheets dried outside on a hot day”

“It’s a bit like coriander and cilantro and citronella and a bit like raspberry. An infestation has a bit rustier smell due to the digested blood feces oxidizing”

“It smells moldy bad”

“If it is a large infestation I have read that it will have a sweet-musky smell”

What do bed bugs smell like when you kill them?

It’s a greater possibility to smell bed bugs after they die rather than when they’re alive. Here are some other descriptions about how dead bed bugs smell:

“After I squished bed bug I ever saw that they smelled really gross and it was like strong b.o. mixed with that stink bug smell.”

“If they’ve just fed, you will smell of blood”

Do bed bugs smell?

Those comment above are defining howbed bugs smell. But a lot of people who met bed bug in their home still say that bed bugs do not smell.

So I believe that smelling something depends on people’s own smelling abilities and there is no such a certain answer to that question.

Let’s take a look at our options one by one.

Do bed bugs smell like skunk?

Bed bug smell and skunk smell! That would be an interesting allegation which seems hard to be proved. But as I said above, bed bugs can smell like stink bug and stink bug odor is described as similar to stunk smell. So, maybe bed bugs can smell like a skunk.

Do bed bugs smell like urine or cat pee?

Any of us should know how urine smells and most insects really smell like urine. But I have never heard from nobody about a bed bug smelling like urine. So I believe that we can eliminate this option. I must say the same thing for cat pee too.

Do bed bugs smell like mold?

Yes, this can be the strongest option. Most people verify this by their own experiences with bed bugs.

Bed bugs are described as producing a musty odor and it’s possible to smell like wet moldy clothes or moldy shoes around.

Conclusion

What do bed bugs smell like?Musty, woody, irony or bloody? I must say that a bed bug can smell like every single of those alternatives. Because smelling ability depends on people’s own experiences and anyone can get a different smell.

While some people say that bed bugs smell, others still claim that they never smell. I personally think that it’s almost impossible to find bed bugs around by smelling them.

But when they died, as bodies of all alive do, their bodies should smell after a certain time. Maybe you can smell them if they die, however this depends where they died and how close they are to you.

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