APM mascot B.B. (middle) and Cameryn Aggson (daughter of Travis Aggson). B.B. made its debut at a birthday party for Kansas State University’s mascot, Willie the Wildcat (left).

As those in the pest control industry know, pest management professionals put their insect knowledge to use for reasons other than killing pests. They are insect enthusiasts who love sharing this passion with others. Take, for example, the NPMA-developed “good bug vs. bad bug” program, in which pest control company representatives visit schools to educate children about beneficial insects, and raise awareness of problematic pests. It’s been a great program for PCOs to connect with the next generation of customers and it’s helped elevate the pest control industry’s image throughout local communities.

Manhattan, Kan.-based American Pest Management (APM) is one such company that has reaped the benefits of its “good bug vs. bad bug” program, which it launched 10 years ago. APM’s program includes a discussion about the good and the bad habits of roaches, rats, bats, termites, bees, spiders, and butterflies — and then lets students decide which are good and which are bad. A popular activity occurs at the end when APM turns the class into a termite colony that destroys a LEGO home.

“We love the program because it allows us to really show the professionalism in our industry and even opens the eyes of the students that the pest management industry really is an important part of our quality of life,” said Travis Aggson, APM’s vice president. “The students love it, the teachers love it and the feedback we have received from the parents has been unbelievable.”

Recognizing the value of this program and seeking to build on its success, American Pest Management teamed up with marketing consultants Christy Chase and Leah Braet, of 502 Media, and for six months they brainstormed for ways to further engage with children. The result is the APM Junior Pest Technician program, an effort to teach children more about insects and perhaps have them serve as their family’s first line of defense by identifying “bad bugs.”

Kids who sign up to become a Junior Pest Technician receive a welcome letter from B.B., the APM mascot, with a coloring page to send in or post to the APM Facebook page. Once completed, they will receive one of six collectible ink stamps with designs of bugs (beetle, spider, centipede, bee, hornet and an ant). “Our idea is that they will collect them all by completing challenges,” said Aggson. “We will send monthly challenges by email, which could be sent back to us, such as a picture of their bug craft (some taken from the Pestworldforkids.com website). Or they could take a picture with their favorite bug in the yard. We will identify the bug and send them a message with a key.”

Travis Aggson

The program was launched in September at Kansas State University’s celebration, Purple Power Play in the Park, and more than 100 kids signed up. Aggson said early returns have been great. “The kids are excited to learn more about the bugs that they have been fascinated with for so long. The swag in the bag (flashlight, coloring book, stickers, stamps, etc.) wasn’t bad either.”

Aggson said APM’s Junior Pest Technician program already has activities scheduled for the whole year, including: how to make bug slime; a valentine bug craft; and promoting “Read Across America” with a list of insect-inspired books. Aggson envisions the program growing in the future with events such Junior Pest Technician gatherings at destinations such as zoos and baseball games.

“I started my love of (or vengeance against) pests when I was three years old when an ant pinched me on the inside of my leg. I started messing with and learning about bugs very young,” Aggson recalled. “Hopefully with the help of this program some kiddos will see the industry as exciting, interesting and a noble profession. Who knows, maybe we will create a whole new generation of PMPs!” — Brad Harbison