Why Do Bed Bugs Smell When You Kill Them? ( 4 Reasons And Facts)

Bed bugs are blood-sucking insects about the size of an apple seed (5-7mm) when fully grown. These oval-shaped, wingless insects survive exclusively on the blood of mammals and insects, but they prefer human blood! 

Like many other types of bugs, bed bugs release an odor commonly referred to as alarm pheromones. The odor can be described as musty and sweet, often likened to the scent given off by berries or coriander.

But bed bug odor is a terrible sign of an infestation. That's because the smell given off by a  few bugs is very faint! And by the time there are enough bugs to produce a detectable smell, the infestation is already full-blown, requiring a professional pest controller to exterminate completely.

That said, why do bed bugs smell when you kill them?

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Why Do Bed Bugs Smell?

As stated earlier, bed bugs release an odor known as alarm pheromones. When you kill a bed bug, it stinks, sending an alarm to others as a warning of potential danger. 

But that's not surprising considering that bed bugs belong to the order Hemiptera. Hemiptera is a specific order of insects known as 'true bugs.' They possess stink glands and usually give off an unpleasant odor, in the same way, we release adrenaline. 

Bed bugs mainly release two types of pheromone, each with a distinct odor to communicate different messages. They release these pheromones when disturbed or excited. 

The danger alert pheromone is often the strongest. And it's the same pheromone released when bed bugs are disturbed or when a male bed bug grabs another male in an attempt to mate it. Note that females do not release pheromones when mating. 

Bed bugs can also use trail pheromones to mark their territories and trace their way back after feeding on a host. That's why you'll often find many bed bugs congregating in one place. When you disturb a bed bug habitat, for instance, by lifting a mattress or flipping a light on them, they release a fear hormone with a unique scent, communicating danger to the others. 

Why Do Bed Bugs Smell When You Kill Them? 

Naturally, the first thing that comes to mind when you spot a bed bug is to squash it. Technically, you are advised to avoid squashing bed bugs as besides wasting an awful lot of time, squashing cannot provide you with successful extermination results. 

Additionally, bed bugs are tough to squash, especially if they haven't eaten for some time. But bed bugs that have just had a good blood meal are pretty soft and easy to squash. Nymphs are even easier to squeeze. 

Besides releasing a dark reddish goo from their bodies, bed bugs also release a distinct odor when killed or squashed. This unpleasant odor/chemical is released to warn the other bed bugs of lurking danger, telling them that they need to 'run for their lives.'

The smell of a dead bed bug is often likened to coriander, moldy clothes, or the musty smell of a damp house. Another reason why do bed bugs smell when you kill them is because of their blood meals. Sometimes, if you kill a bed bug that has just had dinner, it will give off the smell of blood, reminding you of iron or rust. 


Do Bed Bugs Smell Bad? 

The debate about the actual smell of bed bugs is associated with many controversies. Different people have different opinions on the smell released when you kill bed bugs. 

Depending on who you ask, bed bugs can smell like rotten wood or a damp house. Others will tell you that bed bugs produce a sweet smell, resembling raspberries, cilantro, crayons, or burnt almonds. 

And, of course, the bigger the infestation grows, the more intense the smell gets. While the bed bug smell isn't exactly bad, it certainly is unpleasant! In a nutshell, everyone is right about the smell of bed bugs as they release different odors/scents at different times and for various reasons! 

Can Cats Smell Bed Bugs? 

Cats possess a great smelling ability when compared to humans. But even with such prowess, there is no data or proof to suggest whether cats can successfully smell bed bugs or not. Anecdotally speaking, however, some homeowners swear that their cats really help them in the task of detecting bed bugs. 

While the evidence of cats smelling bed bugs remains extremely crude, some people use cat litter to eliminate bed bugs from their homes. They achieve this by grinding the litter into powder and sprinkling it in the infested places. The powder sticks to the bed bug's body,  and the silica gel dehydrates them to death. 

While the evidence of cats smelling bed bugs remains extremely crude, some people use cat litter to eliminate bed bugs from their homes. They achieve this by grinding the litter into powder and sprinkling it in the infested places. The powder sticks to the bed bug's body,  and the silica gel dehydrates them to death. 


Can Dogs Smell Bed Bugs? 

Dogs have an incredible sense of smell! They can use their nose to detect different types of bugs, including bed bugs in a specific location. According to science, dogs have nearly 220 million cells around their nose that help them detect a range of things like drugs and bombs. 

Pest control experts have been using these loyal allies to help in pest detection. Dogs' strong olfactory traits help them distinguish live bed bugs from an old infestation. In fact, a perfectly trained dog can easily detect even an infestation as small as a single bed bug!

How To Get Rid Of Bed Bug Smell From Your Home 

The most effective way to avoid bed bugs' smell is by calling a professional pest exterminator. But if you are determined to get rid of the bed bug's smell on your own, we've provided the expert tips below. 

It's pretty obvious that the only way to get rid of the bed bug smell from your home is by exterminating the pests themselves. Here is a comprehensive DIY guide on how to get rid of bed bugs and bed bug smell from your home: 

Prepare The Infested Area

You want to clean all personal items, clothes, linen, and stuffed toys that might have been exposed to bed bugs. Wash them in very hot water and ensure that you regularly vacuum your house (several times per week). 

Eliminate The Invaders 

Perhaps the easiest way to kill bed bugs on your own is by steam cleaning your bedroom furniture, sofas, tables, carpets, and all cracks and crevices. You can also consider using the most effective bed bug sprays to get rid of the annoying suckers. 

Use Essential/Aroma Oils 

After getting rid of bed bugs and bed bug eggs from your home, you can use essential oils like lavender oil to promote a fresh and floral smell within your house. Besides, essential oils like peppermint oil will eliminate bugs and promote a fresh and clean scent.


Unfortunately, bed bugs have been described as the fastest-growing pest control emergency in the world! They attack without discriminating against a clean or dirty home. 

And while homeowners seek to know why do bed bugs smell when you kill them, it's important to note that smell is an unreliable sign of a bed bug infestation. The best thing to do is seek help from a licensed pest control company. 

Also read:

Can Bed Bugs Live on Top of Wood Floors

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