Vincent and Elizabeth Pugliese must rank among the most chill parents in the world. When their son, Andrew, was 11, he captured some scorpions while traveling with his parents in Arizona, and when Andrew asked if he could take them home to Pittsburgh, they, amazingly, said yes.
A few years after that, Andrew’s parents let him get his first tarantula, and his collection has grown ever since. When the Puglieses left Pittsburgh last year for Venice and then Bradenton, so did Andrew’s menagerie—which currently includes eight tarantulas, five scorpions and one Madagascar hissing cockroach.
Andrew became obsessed with bugs around the age of 4, his parents say.
“I was just into them a lot,” says Andrew, now 16. “I would research them, I would watch YouTube videos and then I would want to catch them in the back yard.”
It’s an interest he’s now sharing with other kids through Bugz Rule, a company he founded last year. For a fee, Andrew will bring dangerous-looking spiders, scorpions and other creepy crawlies to events and teach kids about how to handle them safely. He’s already appeared at multiple birthday parties and festivals—anywhere he can set up a table and introduce people to his collection. Using humor and gentle encouragement, he puts kids at ease and makes them feel OK letting a tarantula crawl all over them.
“Andrew is amazing at getting people comfortable,” says Elizabeth, Andrew’s mother. “So many people have said, ‘I will never come near it. I’ll never touch it.’” But after a little time with Andrew, they do.
Andrew says he’s never been afraid of creatures that would likely scare the daylights out of most of us. “There’s no reason to be afraid of them,” says Andrew. “If there’s no reason for them to harm you, they won’t. You just have to be careful with them.”
The idea for Bugz Rule came from Vincent and Elizabeth. Vincent teaches business lessons to entrepreneurs online, which allows him to work remotely and for the family to travel for extended periods. “We’re always thinking of ideas for how you can turn your passion into a career,” says Vincent. Bugz Rule is a way for Andrew to make some money doing what he loves.
To drum up business, Andrew takes his bugs with him to places where crowds gather, like outside Big Olaf Creamery on Siesta Key on a busy weekend evening. He’ll sit on a bench with a tarantula perched on his shirt, startling passersby. After putting people at ease, he’ll explain about Bugz Rule, pass out business cards and even earn tips.
“I want to get as many people as possible to see that insects and arachnids aren’t as dangerous as they think, and come to respect and even like them,” says Andrew. “I also love any excuse to get more.”
To learn more about Bugz Rule, visit bugzrule.com.