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Bugs, Insects March 1997

Purdue Bug Bowl not for the faint-of-stomach

NOTE TO JOURNALISTS: A color photo of a family at the 1996 Bug Bowl is available. It's called Bug Bowl '96. For b-roll from the 1996 event, contact Grady Jones (765) 494-2079; e-mail,

Download Photo Here
Photo caption below

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. -- Although they don't show up on the Food Pyramid, insects as entrees will be a featured attraction at Purdue University's annual Bug Bowl, April 18-20. That's where the vendors rattle off a menu that includes chocolate chirpy chip cookies, mealworm chow mein and a trail mix called "caterpillar crunch."

A snack that once crawled may not sound enticing, but bug cravings draw more than 10,000 people to Bug Bowl every year. A three-day celebration of insects, Bug Bowl includes everything from a cricket spitting contest to an insect petting zoo. Other events include a Big Bug Bakeoff, a human caterpillar race, an insect petting zoo, insect crafts, a butterfly exhibit and, the crowd favorite, cockroach racing at "Roach Hill Downs." New this year will be a parade of Volkswagen Beetles decorated as bugs.

"The Bug Bowl is the biggest outreach event in the School of Agriculture. People come from all over the state. The news channels all cover the Bug Bowl, and we've even been on CNN," says Kathy Heinsohn, a graduate student in Purdue's entomology department. "People are very intrigued by insects, by the alien characteristics bugs have."

Her involvement with Bug Bowl began in the spring of 1992 when she helped plan the event. "Bug Bowl is a fun approach to insects with an educational aspect. It is also a great way for entomologists to interact with many different people," she says.

Each year she demonstrates ways to cook favorite foods with insects, teaching people about insects and nutrition. She also asks audience members to step up and participate in a blind taste test of spice cakes, one with meal worms and one without.

Started as a cockroach race in 1990 as a way to stir up campus interest in entomology, Bug Bowl went public by accident. Tom Turpin, professor of entomology and Bug Bowl founder, says he never intended for the public to find out about it.

During a 1990 interview about corn research with a radio reporter, Turpin was interrupted by his secretary who walked in with the Bug Bowl cockroaches. Turpin says, "The fellow went back to WASK and the word was out. Purdue was having a cockroach race." The following Saturday, 1,500 people showed up.

Response was so great that the following year the organizers made Bug Bowl a formal event with more activities, expanding it to three days.

"Even if you don't plan to become an entomologist, you're bound to have fun and to learn something," Turpin says. "We hope that everyone comes out of the Bug Bowl a little more knowledgeable about insects."

Bug Bowl is free and open to the public. This year it begins at 4:30 p.m. Friday, April 18, with the Big Bug Bake-Off. The full slate of activities then takes place from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, April 19, and from noon to 4 p.m. Sunday, April 20. The entomology department has dedicated a world wide web page to the event at with more information on events and times.

CONTACTS: Turpin; (765) 494- 4568; e-mail,
Heinsohn, (765) 494-8646; e-mail,

Photo captions:

David Fisher and Liz Grauerholz of West Lafayette share daughter Lara's amazement at the size of a New Guinea stick insect at Purdue's sixth annual Bug Bowl in 1996. (Purdue News Service Photo by David Umberger)

Color photo, electronic transmission, and Web and ftp download available. Photo ID: Bug Bowl '96


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