What Is the Bed Bug Smell?

Female bed bugs lay one to five eggs after each blood meal.
Female bed bugs lay one to five eggs after each blood meal. (Image: 4 eggs image by timur1970 from Fotolia.com)

Bed bugs generally lead a nocturnal life, feeding while their human hosts slumber. However, if bed bugs infest the home of a third-shift worker, they will coordinate their feeding schedule with the host’s sleep schedule.


Bed bug parasites feed on human blood, completing a single blood meal in about five to 10 minutes. These intermittent feeders often feed, move to another spot and feed again. Three bites in a row is a characteristic of bed bug bites or bed bug rash. Because the bites are administered painlessly, the host rarely realizes the bites exist until much later.


Bed bugs follow their hosts from room to room in order to secure a blood meal. During non-feeding periods, they hide in cracks and crevices close to the host. Bed bugs are attracted to wooden items, paper products and cloth.


Bed bugs exude an obnoxious, sweet, musty odor in heavily infested rooms. The smell is often strongest under the headboard and mattress, and it is said to resemble the aroma of rotten raspberries and moldy shoes.

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