Can Bed Bugs Smell Blood? Understanding Their Attraction and Repellents

by | May 23, 2023 | 0 comments

Have you ever wondered how bed-bugs find their way to their hosts? One question that arises often is whether bed-bugs can smell blood. This article will shed light on this question and discuss the intriguing sensory abilities of bed-bugs. It will also underline the need for a professional bed-bug exterminator, the surprising spots bed-bugs might hide in your home, the unlikely hideouts of bed-bugs, and what steps you should take if you find just one bed-bug.


bed-bugs are small, wingless insects that belong to the Cimicidae family. While they are primarily known for infesting beds and feeding on blood of a human, they can also be located in furniture, cracks in walls, and other hiding spots. These parasitic insects are a nuisance and can cause discomfort, itching, and allergic reactions. To better understand bed-bugs’ attraction to blood, we need to examine their physical characteristics and feeding habits.

Understanding bed-bugs

Physical Characteristics

bed-bugs have a distinct appearance, with oval-shaped bodies ranging in size from 4 to 5 millimeters. Their flat bodies allow them to hide in tiny crevices and cracks during the daytime, making them difficult to spot. bed-bugs are reddish-brown in color, although their hue may vary depending on their recent feeding activity.

Feeding Habits

bed-bugs are ectoparasites, meaning they feed on the blood of their hosts. While they can bite any exposed skin, their primary targets are often the neck, arms, and shoulders. Contrary to popular belief, bed-bugs are not attracted to dirt or unsanitary conditions. Instead, they are drawn to the carbon dioxide (CO2) emitted by humans and other warm-blooded animals, as well as the warmth and humidity we generate during sleep.

bed-bugs and Their Sense of Smell

Sensory Organs of bed-bugs

To understand how bed-bugs detect odors, we must explore their sensory organs. bed-bugs have specialized receptors, known as sensilla, located on their antennae, mouthparts, and legs. These sensilla allow them to perceive different chemicals in their environment, guiding their behavior and feeding habits.

How bed-bugs Detect Odors

bed-bugs possess a highly developed olfactory system, enabling them to perceive a diverse array of scents. bed-bugs possess a heightened sensitivity to chemical signals, especially those sent by their conspecifics, such as pheromones. Nevertheless, with regard to the olfactory perception of blood, bed-bugs exhibit a primary attraction towards the amalgamation of carbon dioxide (CO2), body temperature, and other chemical compounds emitted by their hosts.

bed-bugs and Blood

Attraction to Blood

bed-bugs are indeed attracted to blood as it serves as their primary source of nutrition. However, their attraction is not solely based on the smell of blood alone. Instead, it is a combination of factors that draw them to their hosts, with the odor of blood being just one component.

Can bed-bugs Smell Blood?

While bed-bugs have a well-developed sense of smell, it is not accurate to say that they can detect blood by its scent alone. Rather, they rely on a combination of sensory cues, including the chemicals and heat emitted by their hosts, to locate potential feeding sources. bed-bugs are highly sensitive to CO2, and it is this gas, along with body heat and other chemical signals, that helps them pinpoint their targets.

Factors that Attract bed-bugs

Chemical Signals

Apart from the smell of blood, bed-bugs are lured to certain chemical signals emitted by their hosts. These signals can vary from person to person, explaining why some individuals may experience more bed-bug bites than others. Additionally, the presence of certain bacteria on the skin may also contribute to bed-bug attraction.

CO2 and Body Heat

bed-bugs are capable of detecting the CO2 levels exhaled by humans and animals. As we breathe, we release this gas, which acts as a beacon for bed-bugs. Furthermore, the warmth and humidity generated by our bodies create an inviting environment for these pests.

Other Factors that Attract bed-bugs

In addition to chemical signals, CO2, and body heat, bed-bugs may also be attracted to the odor of sweat, the scent of certain lotions or perfumes, and even the presence of exhaled odors that differ among individuals.

Smells that Repel bed-bugs

While the focus has been on bed-bug attraction, there are also scents that bed-bugs find repulsive. These smells can be employed as natural repellents to deter these unwanted guests from infesting our living spaces.

Essential Oils

Certain essential oils have been found to repel bed-bugs due to their strong aromas. Peppermint oil, tea tree oil, lavender oil, and eucalyptus oil are among the popular choices. These oils can be diluted and sprayed around infested areas or added to laundry detergents to help combat bed-bug infestations.

Other Natural Repellents

Apart from essential oils, other natural repellents such as cedarwood, diatomaceous earth, and black walnut tea have shown promise in repelling bed-bugs. These repellents work by interfering with the insects’ ability to navigate or by creating an unfavorable environment for them.

Types of Blood Attractive to bed-bugs

Human Blood

bed-bugs are primarily attracted to human blood. They have evolved to seek out warm-blooded hosts for their meals, and humans are their preferred choice. However, they can also feed on the blood of other mammals if human hosts are not available.

Animal Blood

In the absence of human hosts, bed-bugs can resort to feeding on the blood of other animals. While they may prefer human blood, they can adapt to different hosts if necessary, expanding their potential sources of nutrition.


In conclusion, bed-bugs are attracted to the combination of chemical signals, CO2, body heat, and other factors emitted by their hosts, rather than the smell of blood alone. While they can detect blood, their ability to locate their targets is based on a holistic sensory experience. Understanding the factors that attract bed-bugs can help us take preventive measures and employ natural repellents to mitigate infestations. By utilizing essential oils and other natural remedies, we can create an environment that repels these persistent pests, ensuring a peaceful and bug-free living space.

While understanding if bed-bugs can smell blood is an interesting aspect of their behavior, dealing with an infestation requires a more comprehensive knowledge of these pests. This includes knowing when you can return home after bed-bug treatment, how to clean your home after bed-bug treatment, and the visible signs of an infestation, like bed-bug eggs on your mattress. If ever in doubt, consult with a professional bed-bug exterminator to ensure the complete removal of these pests.


1. Are bed-bugs attracted to the smell of blood?

bed-bugs are attracted to the smell of blood. They are blood-feeding insects and rely on blood for their survival. The carbon dioxide and certain chemical compounds present in human blood act as strong attractants for bed-bugs.

2. Can bed-bugs smell period blood?

bed-bugs are known to have a heightened sense of smell and can detect the presence of blood, including period blood. However, there is no scientific evidence suggesting that bed-bugs are specifically attracted to period blood more than any other type of blood.

3. What smell repels bed-bugs?

There are several smells that are believed to repel bed-bugs, although their effectiveness may vary. Some commonly suggested smells include lavender, tea tree oil, peppermint, cinnamon, and eucalyptus. While these smells may act as deterrents, they are not foolproof in preventing or eliminating bed-bug infestations.

4. What type of blood attracts bed-bugs?

bed-bugs are generally attracted to any type of blood. They primarily seek out warm-blooded hosts, such as humans and animals, for their blood meals. It is not the type of blood that specifically attracts bed-bugs, but rather the presence of blood and the chemical signals it emits.

List of Sources

  1. Biology of the bed-bug.
  2. Sidestep perfumes and bypass becoming bug food.

Duane Cepeda is a highly skilled and experienced bed bug exterminator with a passion for creating pest-free living spaces. With a keen eye for detail and a thorough understanding of bed bug behavior, Duane is dedicated to providing effective and tailored solutions to help clients rid their homes of these persistent pests. Trusted by many, Duane Cepeda is committed to delivering top-notch pest control services that ensure peace of mind and a good night’s sleep for his customers.


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