Cockroaches: What Do They Smell Like?

Cockroaches are one of the most despised household pests. They hide in our walls and creep around in our trash. They are a common pest that can be found in many homes throughout the world and which can elicit fear and disgust.

A cockroach infestation may seem like a daunting task to deal with unless you know how to identify and locate both the bugs and their nests. Spotting a roach running around your home may be easy, but are there other clues that can help you identify an infestation?

For instance, do roaches give off a smell? The answer is yes! Not only are they unsightly guests, but they even come with their own particular smell.

While this may seem like just another undesirable aspect of having a roach infestation, it can actually be a helpful tool in locating and ridding your home of these pests for good.

If you are tired of living with roaches, read on to find out how to identify their distinct smell and how to banish them from your home.

How do cockroaches produce smells?

Later we will learn how to identify the smell of cockroaches and how to use it to eliminate these pests from our homes, but it would be helpful to understand how roaches produce a smell in the first place.

Did you know?

Cockroaches, like many animals and insects, use scents to communicate. This scent is a blend of chemicals called cuticular hydrocarbons. These chemicals are excreted to send messages to other cockroaches for mating, shelter, and feeding purposes.

Along with the smell of the cuticular hydrocarbons, cockroaches also produce a smell as they die due to the fatty acids (oleic or linoleic acid) that are released during decomposition. This smell repels other cockroaches and even other types of insects and was probably an evolutionary trait developed to warn of danger. Again, as the infestation grows, this smell will become more noticeable as the number of dead roaches increases.

The feces of cockroaches can also easily be colonized by mold which, in turn, produces its own scent. Since roaches tend to like dark, wet, hidden places, this mold will accumulate quickly if you have a large infestation. If the roach nests are in an area of your home that attracts moisture, this smell could become quite powerful and help to lead you to the decomposing nests.

Even after all cockroaches have been eliminated from your home, their scent could still linger. It is important to remove all roach bodies and feces to fully eliminate the smell. Once all debris is gone, consider airing out your home or using natural air purifiers to fully eradicate any remaining odor.

What do roaches smell like?

You will recognize the smell of cockroaches when you come across it.

Cockroach smell is usually described as a musty, oily, pungent odor that increases with the size of the infestation. And even though this odor is most noticeable with large quantities of roaches, it is possible to smell even a few roaches.

In many cases, the distinct roach smell will alert you to the fact that there is a sizable roach infestation. Since roaches are nocturnal and tend to hide from humans, this smell can provide you with a good idea of where the majority of the roaches are hiding.

If you notice a strong, pungent odor and suspect a roach infestation, your best option is to contact a pest management professional.

How can you get rid of the smell of cockroaches?

As you may know, managing a cockroach infestation can be an intimidating task. To free your home from roaches, you must first find the source. Enlist a trained pest management professional and then work to maintain a roach-free home.

Roaches need food, warmth, moisture, and shelter to survive. If your home provides these things, it is possible for a cockroach infestation to occur. An important part of keeping roaches (and their smell) out of your home is to make sure that your home is inhospitable to these creepy creatures.

Start with good food storage practices:

  1. Immediately throw out rotting food or food scraps
  2. Keep all the perishables in the refrigerator
  3. Keep all the packages tightly closed
  4. Maintain clean general kitchen spaces and counters.

You will also need to make sure to keep your home dry and to not allow excess moisture to accumulate. This can be especially important in the kitchen, basement, and bathroom areas. Make sure to fill any cracks or gaps in sinks, tubs, walls, and any other area where a roach could hide.

The next step to getting rid of roaches and their smell is to get rid of all potential remaining leftovers from the infestation.

Remove any dead roaches and their feces. Since the roach odor will linger on their skins, feces, and dead bodies, this is a crucial step.

Once your home has been cleaned, keep it in tip-top shape by eliminating clutter, sealing any holes, fixing leaks, and storing food properly. Do not let garbage remain out or leave food on the counters. Throw out any dead cockroaches you find so as not to attract more.

Act now for a roach-free home!

The best defense against roaches is prevention. Follow the above steps to make your home an unfriendly environment for roaches and then make sure to maintain a clean and healthy living space.

If you find yourself needing more substantial help, it may be the time to seek professionals. Find a trained pest management team to help you return your home to normal then do your part to maintain a roach-free environment. Then you will be able to find peace and enjoy being in your home, without being bothered by roaches or their smell.



Do cockroaches or water bugs smell like gas


    Both waterbugs and cockroaches have a very distinct smell. But I haven’t heard anyone refer to it as smelling like gas. Therefore, the gas odor you’re smelling most likely doesn’t come from the bugs.

Betty Lowman

Do roaches smell like chicken


    Not that I’ve heard of.

Delfia Marcum

Does cockroaches have a pee like smell


    Cockroaches usually don’t smell like pee, they produce pungent, oil-like odor.


I just moved the into a place today, and immediately noticed a musty smell which I thought to be almost like a damp old basement smell know my place doesn’t have a basement, room mate found a cockroach in the cupboard that same night now granted we are not seen one so far, but from what I read it sounds like they may have had a problem before and we are getting the combination smell of treatment and dead roaches how long should I wait for the smell to dissipate before I question the property management?


    You should figure out the situation right now. If the place has been treated, you should find out what was used and how long ago. Keep in mind that some treatments can be harmful to humans so it’s a must to air out the area before letting people stay in it. If the smell comes from the treatment, you might need to air it out ASAP. I think my general advice would be just to talk to the property management and figure out the situation sooner rather than later.


Do any insect infestations smell like stale pee? Or their carcass’s?


    Are you sure it’s an insect? Any chance there might be a mouse in your home?


Can roaches smell like old garlic?


    Roaches have a rather pungent, oil-like odor. I’ve never heard about them smelling like old garlic.


    Do german cockroachs smell like marijuana? I know we’ve had a problem with roaches in our apartment and have had them come and spray before but there is still a marijuana smell in our kitchen and bathrooms from time to time and it doesn’t seem to be the neighbors.


    Can’t comment on where the marijuana smell comes from, but I don’t think I’ve ever heard of anyone comparing the smell of cockroaches to it, so I think it’s most likely something else.


We have a strange odor overcoming the home and “oily, musty” isn’t quite specific enough to match. It’s definitely musty but smells almost like a fermentation of some kind. We have enlisted pest control services before due to sightings of what we thought were cockroaches but were told were “water bugs”. At this point I’m not so sure. Could a cockroach infestation in the attic perhaps be the cause of musty sour fermented smell?

    Kristiana Kripena

    It’s definitely a possibility since the attic can serve as a good habitat for cockroaches. I suggest you ask for a second opinion from a different pest control company. Even if the smell isn’t due to roaches there might be other pests to blame for the nasty odor since many pests including bed bugs and mice can give off a distinct smell.


Is the roach scent similar to rotten eggs?

    Kristiana Kripena

    Different people describe the smell of roaches differently. Some say that it’s a pungent, musty odor. Some add adjectives such as oily, heavy, slightly sweet and offensive to the mix. But I don’t think I have ever heard the smell of cockroaches being referred to as similar to rotten eggs. Therefore you might want to look into other causes of the smell. One thing that’s commonly referred to as smelling like rotten eggs is hydrogen sulfide gas aka sewer gas which can be dangerous to your health if you let it build up over time.

Alexander Duncan

If the smell of the roaches repels other roaches (warns them of danger) wouldn’t it be better to leave the dead roaches around? Is this a sickly sweet smell? Is borax and sugar effective to kill roaches?


    There are ways to repel cockroaches, other than leaving the corpses of other cockroaches around. Dead cockroaches can cause other problems, such as asthma. I would definitely suggest getting rid of the dead ones. As for the smell, yes, it can be described as sweet.
    As for the Borax mixed with sugar, yes, that should work for getting rid of them. Borax kills roaches, while sugar is supposed to attract them to the mix.

    Heather Goodwin

    It could be a gas leak, they purposefully make it smell like rotten eggs so you notice it right away if there’s a leak, otherwise it has no smell and you’d never know.

Xavier Cortez

Do roaches have a smell like dog or dog poop


    Not that I’ve heard of.


I’m currently in Barcelona, and I noticed a dead roach (one of the big ones that can fly) on the bathroom floor. The management said they had a roach issue but that a pest control company treated the apartment 2 weeks before so it should no longer be an issue.

Is it possible that actually solved the issue? Also, is it possible to treat an individual apartment and prevent roaches, if the entire building has a problem?

I ask because I noticed a distinct smell when I walked into the building. A smell I’ve noticed in other apartment buildings in the US that are not kept up well. I wouldn’t say it was ‘oily’ but it was almost…musty mixed with a weird asian restaurant smell. I don’t really know how to explain it but seeing someone here mention roaches smelling like bad soy sauce (or something) got me thinking…

Thanks! I appreciate your thoughts.

When I lived in the south in the US, pest control came once every 3 months to re-treat the house as a preventative. Is that a best practice everywhere?


    Well, if the whole building is infested, treating just the apartment might not be the most efficient solution and you’ll probably be seeing bugs again, as they’ll easily find new entry points. As for the routine extermination, it depends on the property. Often there’s no need for exterminating every 3 months. However, if it’s found to be what works for the building then it’s what works for the building! Plenty of companies actually suggest doing so.


There is a street near me ,where I walk my dogs at night. I have never seen so many cockroches as there. The drains stink of an amonia ypw smell, which is very offensive.

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