Much like cockroaches, stink bugs, and odorous house ants, bed bugs have long been associated with a particular odor, and not a pleasant one according to most reports. Considering that a nationwide bed bug epidemic has been raging throughout the US for around two decades, there probably isn’t a pest control professional in the country who has not become thoroughly acquainted with the foul stench of a heavy bed bug infestation. While this stink must be well known to a substantial number of homeowners who have experienced bed bug pest issues, experts say that the distinct odor of bed bugs can only be readily detected in heavily infested homes. However, prior to the eradication of bed bugs from the US in 1940, the bed bug odor was well known to the American public. In fact, the odor of bed bugs was so pervasive during the 19th and early 20th centuries that it became known as the “buggy odor” in urban centers of the country.
While pest control professionals differ slightly in their description of the bed bug odor, most seem to agree that heavily infested homes reek of rotten citrus fruit or cilantro. It is now understood that this odor comes from aldehydes that bed bugs regularly secrete from their glands for the purpose of pheromone signalling. Unfortunately, these aldehydes remain on bed bug corpses, shed skins and body fragments for a long period of time, and such bodily debris usually collects within the wall voids of heavily infested homes. One recent study showed that this odor could still be detected on the remains of dead bed bugs for at least 99 days. Because of this, some people may choose to have their wall voids cleared of debris and sanitized following the elimination of a particularly extensive bed bug infestation.
Before bed bug infestation rates skyrocketed across the country during the early part of the century, most non-elderly Americans were not at all familiar with bed bugs beyond the popular rhyme, “sleep tight, don’t let the bed bugs bite,” their parents would tell them at bed time. Those who have fallen victim to the ongoing bed bug epidemic probably avoid uttering this popular children’s rhyme due to the traumatic memories it triggers. Unfortunately, this is not entirely a joke, as numerous medical and public health studies have shown that a significant number of bed bug victims develop lasting mental health issues in response to the tremendous stress that goes along with living in bed bug infested conditions. One recent medical study found that 81 percent of bed bug victims experienced lasting mental health disturbances as a result of the prolonged stress of dealing with bed bug pests and repeated bites. These mental health issues included sleeplessness, anxiety, obsessive behavior, and in rarer cases, post traumatic stress.
Have you ever struggled to control bed bugs?