Wednesday, May 15, 2024

Insect Odors: 8 Insects and Bugs that Smell Bad and Pungent

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You’ve come across a particular bug that carries an offensive scent but don’t know what it is. It is common for bugs to emit an off-putting aroma, especially when threatened or crushed.

That’s just how it is; some bugs are proud walking stink bombs. Seemingly, some insects may also make their presence known when close in proximity by the scent they wear.

If you’re trying to identify insects that smell unpleasant, this article highlights 8 smelly bugs that might invade your home or garden.

8 Insects and Bugs that Smell Bad and Pungent

This isn’t an exhaustive list, and as more research information is collected, the article will be updated to ensure you’re getting accurate information.

Let’s proceed to the list.

Stink Bugs

Stink bugs did not get their moniker because they emit rose and peach-smelling fragrances. They got the name because—you guessed right—they stink.

The worst part is you don’t have to squash a stink bug to get whiff of their awful smell. If you’re close to a plant on which a stink bug has perched, it’s highly possible you’ll smell their putrid odor. The odor is more prominent once the stink bug is threatened or crushed.

Stink bugs of all sorts reek badly, regardless of their color: black, brown, green, spotted, and the likes. While most people are familiar with the invasive and vicious brown marmorated stink bug, the family of these bad-smelling bugs is vast.

Stink bugs belong to the Pentatomidae family. Podisus is a genus of predatorial stink bugs of said family, with over 20 known species.  

The odor of this bug that smells bad is difficult to describe. At best, the smell mimics the armpits of 10 persons who haven’t showered in 10 days and have been heavily sweating. Other persons say it smells like cilantro (I agree), while others equate its aroma to that of a skunk.

Either way, these insects topped the list of bugs that smell, so their fragrance isn’t pleasing to the nostrils.

Shall we continue with the list of bugs that smell bad? The next option may come as no surprise.


If you’re a cockroach-crushing homeowner, you know their scent all too well.

It’s not difficult to imagine why cockroaches smell the way they do.

The smell serves them. It is said that cockroaches emit chemicals called cuticular hydrocarbons to communicate with other cockroaches about food, shelter, and mates. No wonder they tend to cling together.

While cockroaches stink without being crushed, the smell is worst when their insides are revealed.

It’s hard to describe the scent of cockroaches, but most people can tell when they have an infestation. Especially when they invade your cupboards and cabinets in large numbers, cockroaches will give off an old, musty, moldy scent.

There are no words in a lexicon to describe their aroma. However, it’s awful, and pungently so.

Shore Earwigs

While the shore earwig might not walk around and emit a foul odor, they can transform into a stink bomb in record time.

Scientists have revealed that the earwig has a defense mechanism that spins into action when it’s about to be eaten. Immediately after it’s popped into the mouth, the earwig will dispense a horrid-smelling odor.

This was discovered in a study where a lizard tried eating an earwig. Immediately after grabbing hold of the insect into its mouth, the lizard spat it out.

The odor of earwigs is said to come from two sulfur-based compounds. These compounds are often found in specific plants and fungi that imitate the smell of rotting flesh or poop. These sulfur-based compounds are often used to ward off pollinating flies that could spread fungal spores to plants.

If you are in the habit of eating insects as a source of energy and protein, you might want to pass on gobbling up earwigs. You may want to eat crickets instead.


Tapinoma sessile is the name that identifies stink ants. These small insects are known by different monikers, including stink ants, coconut ants, sugar ants, and odorous house ants.

The smell of the odorous house ant is pungent. Some relate that it smells like rotten or stale coconuts. Like most other bugs that smell bad, the aroma is released once the insect is crushed.  

Unfortunately, I’ve had several encounters with the stench of these ants. However, the worst is having to almost eat a Jamaican patty that odorous house ants had crawled into.

I briefly left a patty sitting on a table that I intended to eat. After microwaving the patty a few minutes later, my first bite revealed an awful scent. It reminded me of sawdust.

You might not think that sawdust is an awful scent, and some people may find it appealing. However, the aroma I whiffed was heightened to the superlative degree.

What odorous ants smell like seems to vary depending on who’s doing the sniffing. Some people purport that it smells like blue cheese.

Regardless, odorous ants stink, and they made this list.

On another note, if you’re looking for an indoor ant killer to get rid of ants, please consider reading this article later.

Western Conifer Seed Bug

The western conifer seed bug (WCSB) is often mistaken for stink bugs, largely due to the shield it wears. The WCSB is mistaken in Chile for the kissing bug.

Either way, these true bugs belong to a different family—Coreidae, and genus Leptoglossus.

The WCSB will invade your home for warmth, especially as the winter season approaches.

They squeeze into the smallest of cracks to enter your home and congregate in huge numbers.

They aren’t harmful but stink when you crush them. If these do invade your home, unless you want to smell the funk and alter the aura of your lovely abode, simply collect, and drown them; don’t crush.

Asian Lady Beetles

The Asian lady beetle is another bug that smells bad. When threatened or squashed, the lady beetle (ladybird) will emit a stinky odor that lingers.

While Asian lady beetles aren’t pests of vineyards, they do affect the quality of grapes. This is because some Asian lady beetles tend to congregate on grapes in the field. If these are crushed and mistakenly combined with grapes for making wine or juice, the aroma and flavor will change.  

The liquid released by the Asian lady beetle doesn’t only taint wine, but leaves stains on clothing, bed linen, curtains, and carpets.

It is said that the Asian lady beetle smells like rancid peanut butter.

Wheel Bugs

The wheel bug is a relative of the assassin bug family. These are predatory insects that feed on things you hate in your garden and are great biological control options (if you’re a gardener).

They aren’t poisonous bugs but do carry a nasty bite when handled. The aroma they emit doesn’t come close to stink bugs, but it’s strong enough to leave a bad impression on their predators and you.

The wheel bug is said to exude an unpleasant scent, but this could be limited to male species. Exudes from females are said to be pleasant.

Bombardier Beetle

The bombardier beetle is not a docile bug. This beetle is aggressive, and once it feels the slightest hint of threat, it’ll take action.

This beetle is a ground beetle that belongs to the tribe Brachinini. It’s a Central and South American Native.

Once it comes in contact with a predator, the bombardier takes action and squirts a caustic chemical spray from the tip of its abdomen. This spray kills other insects like ants and may bring harm to humans. This may include physical burns from the acid, discomfort, and probably contact dermatitis.  

In rare instances, a more systematic response may occur, warranting immediate health care.  

The stench from the substance they produce contains hydroquinone, hydrogen peroxide, and catalytic enzymes.

Bugs that Smell Bad, Conclusion

Like humans, bugs and insects do go into defence mode when threatened. But unlike insects, we don’t emit a foul odor (or do we?).

In most cases, secretions produced by these insects and bugs that smell bad aren’t harmful. However, don’t go messing around with a bombardier beetle. You may not come out unscathed.

Samantha Burris
Samantha Burris
Samantha is a writer with an unhealthy fetish for books and a love-hate relationship with insects, bugs, and creepy-crawlies. She enjoys scouting YouTube for vegan videos, and when she’s not chilling with hubby, she’s masterminding the ultimate plan to take over the blogosphere with her wits, creativity, and treasure trove of knowledge. If you’re looking for a conversational and professional scribe, with the ability to compose content across various spectrums, Samantha is your go-to creative.

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