Right: Visitors listen to Florida Mouse Limo Driver Marty Phipps. Bottom photos: Adults and children alike watched the ladybug release at Truly Nolen’s Coral Springs (Fla.) service office as part of the inaugural National Insect Day on Feb. 24, 2018. Several ladybugs opted to land on the visitors as part of the release.

As part of the company’s yearlong 80th anniversary celebration last year, Truly Nolen Pest Control hosted the company’s inaugural National Insect Day on Feb. 24. The event provided education and fun for people of all ages at its Tucson Corporate Campus headquarters, as well as other locations and service offices across the country.

National Insect Day festivities at the Corporate Campus included a tour of the company’s Insect Institute “Bug Room” (featuring live insects), “Good Bug/Bad Bug” education classes, “Ask an Entomologist” opportunities, a photo booth and many other activities. “We invited the University of Arizona’s entomology department to host their movie ‘Insecta’ and bring their live bug collection from their community outreach program,” said Michelle Nolen Senner, director of public relations. Senner added that the celebration also “incorporated a number of arts and craft projects, including decorating a bug jar and ‘inventing’ your own insect on our custom coloring page. And we concluded with lady bug releases, either into a person’s insect jar to bring home or throughout our campus.”

At participating service offices across the country, “Good Bug/Bad Bug” education classes and arts and crafts were the key focus. “The world of bugs is so endless and fascinating. No matter who you are, there will be something about bugs that is going to amaze you,” said Scott Nolen, Truly Nolen president/CEO.

Senner said the firm began researching the possibility of a National Insect Day almost two years ago. “We were surprised when we began researching last March that there is not a National Insect Day on any calendar we could find,” said Senner. “Because we care about educating the public as much as anything else we do when it comes to insects, we decided 2018, in conjunction with our 80th anniversary, would be the perfect time to launch the first one.”

The company will celebrate every February to continue the education and celebration of insects. “We built our ‘Good Bug/Bad Bug’ program for elementary schools and STEM programs over the years giving us a great platform to launch National Insect Day,” said Senner. “The best part is other companies and education partners can participate in this day’s activities going forward using this model to bring more awareness and passion across the country.”

There was a significant reason Feb. 24 was chosen for the inaugural event. “Our father Truly David Nolen, whose favorite insect was the praying mantis, would have turned 90 that day,” said Nolen. “Knowing how much he loved educating the public when it came to all insects both good and bad, we feel like his presence was felt during our first-ever celebration.”

The hissing cockroach display at the Tucson Corporate Campus’ Insect Institute “Bug Room” was a highlight of National Insect Day.

In future years’ celebrations, Toby Srebnik, manager of public relations, social media and community events, explained that Truly Nolen would love to partner with botanical gardens or parks to host lady bug releases, helping make a difference with the environment. “Our intention is to have National Insect Day go forward and be a part of our history,” said Srebnik.

“Our goal is to have all our locations host these events along with our peers throughout the pest control industry,” Senner said.

The author is a Cleveland-based freelancer.