If you have ever come in close contact with a stink bug and tried to either squash it or shoo it away, then you most probably have gotten a whiff of a mysteriously pungent odor. Make no mistake, that odor that they emanate is nature’s self defense mechanism that has been bestowed upon them. If any predator attempts to harm this species of bug, they will be sprayed with this repulsive odor as a deterrent to keep the predator at bay.
You most probably are already familiar with the fact that skunks do pretty much the same thing: If they are frightened or attacked, they will unleash a foul odor that gets on your skin and clothes and is downright unbearable for most animals and humans.
If you are wondering what do stink bugs smell like, then you are not alone. Everyone who smells the stink bug self-defense odor recognizes it as something familiar. In case you haven’t guessed what it is, it is none other than cilantro.
Cilantro is a type of herb commonly used as an ingredient for cooking many dishes. The irony is that while the foul stench that emanates from stink bugs is rather putrid, the smell of cilantro is an extremely pleasant and delectable odor (and taste) when either consumed by itself or cooked with food.
So what is the explanation as to how an insect odor can bear strong resemblance to an herb, and why the similar odor is repulsive when emanating from a stink bug yet when you smell it in food, it can cause the taste buds to drool?
The answer is that the chemical composition of the odor that is released by the this species of bug consists of trans-2-decenal and trans-2-Octena, which happen to coincidentally be used as food additives. Interestingly, these same chemical compounds happen to also be present in cilantro!!
More research needs to be conducted into this matter, but if you love cilantro, then you probably wouldn’t find the odor emanated by stink bugs to be all that offensive to you (although psychologically, just knowing that the smell is being generated by a creepy looking insect would be a huge appetite-killer)! And conversely, if you aren’t exactly a big fan of cilantro to begin with, then you might not react to kindly to that odor.
But what is known for sure is that this odor is what is used as the stink bug’s innate self-defense mechanism against predators. I guess not too many other animals and insects in the wild appreciate the smell of fresh cilantro either!
One issue of concern for many is that one or two stink bugs here and there that give off this odor might not be a big deal. You can always use an aerosol air freshener to mask that odor. But what if you have a whole swath of stink bugs to deal with and they have all taken up residence within your house. Your walls, your sheets, clothes, carpet, or furniture is going to end up smelling like cilantro and really stinking up the home and your property, or even your body.
That’s why it is not always in your best interests to go around squashing stink bugs. It is always better to use some other non-violent means to either displace them or exterminate them. For example, you can find some way to lure them out of your house while still alive. Or you can set up traps for them where they will become encased within an enclosure where they will either drown, suffocate, or starve, or you can then dispose of them outside.
If you were to blindfold yourself and be presented with one cup that contains the squashed remains of a stink bug that has stunk up the cup with the its stench, and a second cup that contains cilantro, and you were to smell both of these, would you be able to tell which one is which? Which one is the cilantro and which one is the stink bug?