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In the northeast US, three cockroach species are well known for commonly invading homes where they establish hidden nesting sites, pose a nuisance to humans, plant egg sacs in concealed areas, and smear a variety of disease-causing microorganisms on indoor surfaces. The German cockroach is far and away the most frequently encountered roach pest within homes in the region, and this is largely due to this species’ natural preference for dwelling solely indoors where they rely largely on human food sources for sustenance. The American and Oriental cockroach species prefer dwelling outdoors near human habitats, but they frequently establish lasting shelter within homes. While there is already plenty to dislike about the indoor presence of cockroaches, it is also a fact that German, American and Oriental cockroaches almost constantly secrete a foul-smelling oily substance that contaminates every indoor surface that they make contact with.

Numerous anecdotal reports and scientific publications state that the Oriental cockroach species emits the most offensive indoor odor of the three common roach pest species. In some cases, homeowners first become aware of roach infestations after noticing a pervasive stench within their home. Typically, indoor roach odors only become noticeable after a heavy roach infestation has become established, but the presence of one single roach is enough to produce a perceptible funk, especially if the lone roach is of the Oriental variety. Many have described roach odors as “musty” and universally foul, and given their habit of crawling on and consuming human foods, roach odors are often most pungent within pantries, cupboards, and other food storage areas. Any food source that smells of roaches is unfit for human consumption and should be discarded. Even if roach-smelling foods are thoroughly cooked, the odor usually remains present and noxious. Roach odors originate from oleic acid, which is present in a variety of volatile roach secretions, such as pheromones, feces, and bodily perspiration. During the early 20th century, smelly Oriental roach secretions were extracted and mixed with other substances before being sold as a medical elixir. These antiquated products contained blattaric acid, antihydropin, fetid, and fatty oil. The product was ingested in order to treat Bright’s disease and whooping cough, and it was applied topically for wart removal, the treatment of boils and skin ulcers.

Have you ever caught a whiff of a roach odor within your home?