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bed bugs

What Do Bed Bugs Smell Like?

Ever wondered if you could identify bed bugs by their smell?

Bed bugs emit a distinct musty odor, often compared to the scent of coriander or a wet, moldy cloth. This unique smell can be an early indicator of an infestation, even before you spot any physical signs of these tiny pests.

Curious about other ways to detect bed bugs and prevent infestations? Keep reading to uncover more tips and tricks for identifying and dealing with these unwelcome guests.

Key Takeaways

  • You can detect the smell of bed bugs, including sweet, musty, or coriander-like scents, particularly in large infestations when bed bugs release alarm pheromones.
  • Bed bug odors primarily come from their feces, shed skins, and pheromones, each contributing to the distinct smells that aid in identifying infestations.
  • To identify a bed bug infestation, look for sensory signs like a characteristic smell and visual cues such as blood stains, fecal spots, and actual bed bugs.

Can You Actually Smell Bed Bugs?

Bed bugs emit a specific scent that humans can detect under certain conditions linked to their pheromones and alarm signals.

Describing the Smell

Bed bugs release distinct odors that are often compared to various familiar scents. When they are disturbed or feel threatened, they release pheromones that many people describe as:

  • Sweet Smell: Often likened to raspberries or almonds.
  • Musty Odor: Similar to damp, moldy towels.
  • Coriander-like Scent: A strong, pungent smell resembling crushed coriander.

The smell is more noticeable during significant infestations when bed bugs release alarm pheromones in larger quantities.

These pheromones are intended to warn other bed bugs of potential danger.

How to Detect and Identify Bed Bug Infestations

Besides smell, visual cues and other sensory signs play a crucial role in detecting the presence of bed bugs.

Other signs include:



Blood stains

Small, rust-colored stains on sheets and pillowcases.

Fecal matter

​​Tiny dark spots resembling pepper on mattresses.

Live bed bugs

Small, reddish-brown adult bed bugs the size of an apple seed.


Shed skins from growing bed bugs, often found in hidden areas.

Bed bug eggs and nymphs

Tiny, white, or translucent, often in mattress seams.

How to Get Rid of Bed Bug Infestations

Dealing with a bed bug infestation requires a multi-faceted approach. Each method has unique steps and considerations.

DIY Remedies

DIY remedies are often the first step you consider as bed bug control. Since they focus on solving the issue through accessible, non-professional means, you must employ several techniques for the best results.

Some of the most practical DIY remedies to consider are:

Heat Treatment: Use a high-temperature dryer to kill bed bugs on washable items like bedding and pillowcases.

Diatomaceous Earth: Sprinkle this natural powder around crevices, box springs, and headboards. It dehydrates and kills bed bugs.

Vacuuming: Regularly vacuuming mattresses, box springs, and around the bed frame can significantly reduce bed bugs.

Encasements: Bed bug-proof covers for mattresses and pillows can trap bugs and prevent infestations.

Professional Extermination

Pest control companies are crucial for severe infestations or when DIY methods fall short. They use specialized techniques and equipment to ensure complete eradication.

They often offer several treatment options, such as:

Professional Treatment Options



Targeted chemical treatments effectively kill bed bugs. The entomologist or pest control expert will choose the right type.

Heat Treatment

Professional-grade heat treatment can penetrate walls and crevices more effectively than DIY methods.


A thorough technique where the entire room or house is temporarily sealed and fogged with a pest control pesticide.

Preventative Measures

Preventing infestations is equally vital as dealing with existing bed bug problems. Consistent measures can stop them from becoming a recurring issue.

Consider these steps to keep your home free from bed bug bites and allergic reactions:

Regular Inspections: Check for signs of bed bugs regularly, especially in potential hotspots like headboards and box springs.

Proper Hygiene: Maintain cleanliness in sleeping areas. Washing bedding frequently can help prevent infestations.

Reduce Clutter: Bed bugs love hiding in clutter. Keeping areas around your bed tidy reduces hiding spots.

Be Cautious with Second-Hand Items: Inspect second-hand furniture and clothes for bed bugs before bringing them home.

No Smell, but Still Concerned? A Professional Can Help.

It's not uncommon for you to miss the scent of bed bugs since many factors can affect their detectability, including room ventilation and individual sense of smell.

If you notice multiple symptoms or other insects like cockroaches and termites, you might want to take action and call a professional pest control company (like us at Native Pest Management). As professionals in the field, we can conduct a thorough examination and provide the necessary treatment.