Health, Wellness & Biotech Startups Venture

The Startups Saving Us From Biting Bugs

One of the nicest things about spring is that brief period when the sun is shining, the flowers are blooming, and mosquitoes are not yet out in droves.

It never lasts. As temperatures rise, bugs proliferate. On balmy summer evenings, enjoying the outdoors often later involves hours indoors scratching bites and applying aloe.

It’s not just discomfort. Globally, mosquitoes rank as the deadliest creatures in the world. Nor is it just a hazard of the great outdoors. Indoor pests like bed bugs are also finding new and unwelcome ways to thrive.

Overall, biting bugs represent a big enough market to intrigue both startups and investors. Companies with business models focused on repelling insects, killing mosquitoes and eliminating bed bugs have raised tens of millions in seed and venture funding in recent years.

To get a sense of where the money is going, we used Crunchbase data to curate a list of nine companies that have collectively raised over $40 million to date to battle bugs.


The most recent funding recipient, bug repellant brand Murphy’s Naturals, is also the most heavily capitalized. Last week, the Raleigh, North Carolina-based company announced it raised $8 million in a Series B round led by Point King Capital.

The new round brings total financing for the 10-year-old company to more than $17 million. It comes as Murphy’s is expanding its retail presence with products like a lemon eucalyptus oil mosquito and tick repellant expected to be on sale at REI and Walmart this year.

While Murphy’s markets to consumers, others are targeting customers like municipalities that control mosquito populations over a large area. In this camp is Diptera, an Israel-based startup that aims to reduce mosquito populations by overwhelming an area with sterile male insects.

The startup raised seed funding last year from IndieBio and SOSV to develop a service that will enable municipal or real estate customers to subscribe and receive shipments of sterile males ready for release. Diptera claims the approach can reduce overall mosquito populations by more than 90%.

Bed bugs

Other startups are targeting pests inside the home.

Of course bed bugs never intended to attract the attention of startups. However, they’ve arguably brought it upon themselves with their remarkable success in spreading to more homes, hotels, Airbnbs and other places where pillows meet heads.

Currently, there are several recently funded startups tasked with making it easier to eliminate them. Among them is U.K.-based Spotta, which raised $3.8 million in December. The company has developed a bed bug monitoring system that counts several hotel chains as customers.

Another well-funded entrant in the space is Idaho-based Pest Share, a platform for providing on-demand pest control to renters and property managers. The startup, which targets both bed bugs and other pests, picked up a $5.3 million financing in July led by proptech investor MetaProp.

Big market

As anyone who’s suffered a bed bug infestation can tell you, getting rid of the pests isn’t cheap or easy.

Globally, the pest control market is estimated at around $25 billion annually, and is forecast to continue growing at a steady clip. Moreover, it’s not a sector like fine dining or new furniture, where people and businesses have discretion to decide when spending is appropriate. If you’ve got bed bugs, you’ve got to take quick action.

Mosquitoes, meanwhile, are also thriving. With climate change, more areas are able to host these flesh-biting creatures for longer periods of the year, raising the risk of insect-borne disease.

Just thinking about it can make a person’s skin crawl. And while it’s slightly comforting to see funding to some startups with innovative approaches to insect bites and infestations, they’ll need to scale a lot more to make a discernible dent in this persistent scourge of pestilence.

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Photo by Cameron Webb on Unsplash.

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