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Sensory inputs are often fluctuating and intermittent, yet animals reliably utilize them to direct behavior. Here we ask how natural stimulus fluctuations influence the dynamic neural encoding of odors. Using the locust olfactory system, we isolated two main causes of odor intermittency: chaotic odor plumes and active sampling behaviors. Despite their irregularity, chaotic odor plumes still drove dynamic neural response features including the synchronization, temporal patterning, and short-term plasticity of spiking in projection neurons, enabling classifier-based stimulus identification and activating downstream decoders (Kenyon cells). Locusts can also impose odor intermittency through active sampling movements with their unrestrained antennae. Odors triggered immediate, spatially targeted antennal scanning that, paradoxically, weakened individual neural responses. However, these frequent but weaker responses were highly informative about stimulus location. Thus, not only are odor-elicited dynamic neural responses compatible with natural stimulus fluctuations and important for stimulus identification, but locusts actively increase intermittency, possibly to improve stimulus localization.