On Nov. 16, 2016, Rudy Ayala, owner and operator of Spearhead Pest Control in Ventura, CA, passed his Associate Certified Entomologist exam, becoming the 1,000th ACE. Ayala, a U.S. Army veteran and Vice Chair of Pest Control Operators of California in his district, said he pursued ACE as part of his drive toward excellence.
“The ACE is special to me because this industry isn’t just a job for me. I’m a believer. I’m constantly seeking new challenges and ways to prove to myself and my customers that I’m the best choice,” said Ayala when ESA informed him that he was the 1,000th ACE.
Zia Siddiqi, the current Director of the ESA Certification Board, was delighted to receive the news of the 1,000-person milestone. “I offer hearty congratulations to Rudy for passing his exam,” he said. “This is probably the hardest exam in structural pest control. The fact that so many people are seeking to earn their ACE is a testament to the increasing professionalism of the industry. He now joins the other 999 ACEs to proudly wear the ACE symbol of professionalism.”
The ACE or Associate Certified Entomologist certification is a personal credential that is designed for individuals who work with insects but don’t necessarily have the academic training of a full entomologist. It was started by the ESA Certification Board in 2004 and has grown every year since that time. Currently the ACE program is only designed for the structural pest control industry, but long-term plans include exploring and possibly pursuing other insect-related professions, such as public health, stored product pests, and others.
ACE is built on Integrated Pest Management (IPM) principles with a strong focus on identifying sources and root causes of pest problems before attempting to administer treatment. This IPM education focus attracted the National Pest Management Association (NPMA) to endorse the program in 2013 and reaffirm their commitment this year.
“The NPMA is committed to encouraging professionalism within the pest management industry. It is because of this commitment that we wholly endorse the Entomological Society of America’s ACE program,” stated NPMA CEO Dominique Stumpf, CAE. “With its strong focus on education and professional development among PMPs [pest management professionals], the ACE has become the gold standard for entomological expertise in urban pest management.”
There are two ACE programs: a domestic U.S. program and a second, closely related program that is for all other nations around the world, ACE-I. To qualify for the U.S. version, interested applicants must sign a Code of Ethics, prove a minimum of five years of professional experience, submit a copy of a pesticide applicator’s license, and submit two letters of professional reference. The international ACE is similar, but since an applicator’s license is not required in all other countries, it is not required for applicants to the ACE-I. But whereas U.S. applicants need only pass one exam, ACE-I applicants must pass two exams, with the second devoted solely to pesticide knowledge and safety.
Ayala has some advice for others pursuing their own certification.
“The ACE is not an easy test and I approached it with respect. My wife, Carly, took over some of my responsibilities for a while so I could focus on studying. The IPM for the Urban Professional book is instrumental, current, and an exceptional resource for those seeking to stand out in their company. It’s not enough to be smart anymore. One must also be tested and proven. Let’s raise the bar.”
Photo caption: ESA’s newest ACE, Rudy Ayala and his proctor, Laurie Jo Jensen, BCE. Photo courtesy of Rudy Ayala.