Meet the Clark Bug Zookeeper: Fred Speer

Dec 3, 2019, 11:30 AM by Jeff Fenner

Written by: J. Fenner

When you spend your days around hissing cockroaches and tarantulas, you’re bound to experience a few interesting moments. Just ask Clark Pest Control’s Bug Zookeeper Fred Speer.

Since 2009, Speer has been Clark’s bug zookeeper and has taken his sorted lot of creepy and crawly colleagues on the road to more than 300 schools across California. Speer estimates the program, which meets the state of California’s science requirements for grade schools, has been enjoyed by nearly 16,000 mesmerized students.

“It’s a great way for Clark to connect with the community and introduce insects to kids and the classroom in a safe manner,’ says Speer. “There have been so many good memories from the zoo visits over the years.”

Speer recalls an early visit to a school where a young girl bravely asked to hold the Madagascar hissing cockroach.

“Her hand began to shake and the next thing you know, she flung the insect over her head and it hit the wall before falling to the floor,’ says Speer.

Once the cockroach gathered its senses the aspiring entomologist said she wanted to give it another go but the results were the same. A flying cockroach. Fortunately, all parties survived the experience.

How does one become a bug zookeeper? For Speer it started when then Clark director of marketing, Nicole Keefe, has an idea to spice up the Clark display at the numerous home improvement shows and community events the company exhibited at.

Speer was working as a website developer in the company’s IT department at the time and, despite a reluctance to handle spiders, gave in to Keefe’s persistent recruiting and agreed to be the company’s first bug zookeeper.

“I had never handled a tarantula or hissing cockroach before but after removing a tarantula that had gotten its fangs stuck in a fake plant leaf I was hooked,” adds Speer.

Where does one curate the animals for a bug zoo? Speer, a San Leandro native and U.S. Navy veteran, started shopping at a local exotic animal store for lizards, tarantulas and spiders but now orders most of his insects online.

“With many school districts experiencing budget cuts the bug zoo offers an accredited program that Clark offers at no charge,” says Speer. “It raises awareness about the beneficial role insects play in our ecosystem and is a lot of fun.”

What does Clark’s bug zookeeper do when he is not on the road with his band of merry insects? In addition to his zookeeper role, Speer manages Clark’s social media presence sharing helpful tips with California homeowners on everything from mice to spiders.

Away from the office Speer is a volunteer baseball coach for his son’s youth baseball team, a role he truly enjoys.

“I started coaching him in t-ball and hope to continue as long as he is playing,’ says Speer. “We are constantly on the field practicing or playing games.”

Baseball is a family affair for the Speers’ as Fred’s wife serves as the “ultimate team mom” helping keep things organized.

Speer is also involved with Team Rubicon, the non-profit service organization comprised of veterans that respond in times of crisis to help communities. He manages the group’s Facebook presence.

“The one thing most veterans miss the most after they leave the service is the comradery and this allows us to feel that again and help communities in their greatest time of need,’ says Speer.

More About the Bug Zoo

The Clark Bug Zoo developed the program for grade school children (grades three through six) to share fun facts and get a chance to interact with some of the coolest bugs on the planet.

This interactive program provides an entertaining and educational introduction to the fascinating world of insects. Among the topics covered are during the hour-long presentation are:

  • Insect and spider anatomy
  • Where our Bug Zoo pets live
  • How they defend themselves naturally
  • What insects eat
  • Each species' technical (binomial) name

This program is a free service provided by Clark Pest Control, and is offered to private and public schools.

For more information on scheduling a bug zoo visit to your school, contact Clark’s Fred Speer at

If you have concerns about managing pests in and your home, condo or apartment, call California’s trusted, friendly pest control expert, Clark, at 800/WE-NEED-YOU or send an e-mail at  

Until next time, the pest management professionals at Clark Pest Control thank you for help keeping unwanted pests out of your home.

Bug Zoo

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