sealPurdue Science and Health Briefs

February 1998

Cricket-spitting contest to reappear at '98 Bug Bowl

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 1997 event, contact Grady Jones (765) 494-2079; e-mail,

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. -- Cockroach racing, a traditional favorite at Purdue University's annual Bug Bowl, will get a run for its money from the latest popular insect activity -- cricket spitting.

Download Photo Here
Photo caption below
Traditionally, the stars of Purdue's annual Bug Bowl have been the cockroaches in the "Roach Hill Downs" race. But at last year's Bug Bowl, many of the 10,000 visitors were equally interested in crickets -- and the people who spit them.

According to Tom Turpin, professor of entomology and Bug Bowl co-founder, the cricket-spitting contest was so popular in its debut at the '97 Bug Bowl that it will reappear for the 1998 event, April 18-19.

Visitors also will be able to taste foods cooked with insects, visit a honey bee exhibit and taste some honey, stop by an insect petting zoo, and watch the famous cockroach race. This is the eighth year for the Bug Bowl, which has gained national exposure for its combination of entomology, education and entertainment.

People find the idea of spitting dead crickets for distance to be intriguing and fun, Turpin says. "Last year, there were so many who wanted to do it that we had to draw names out of a hat," says Turpin, who ran the event much like an Olympic shot put throw. "People who weren't picked were really distraught."

Even children were able to join in the cricket-spitting contest. Participants were split into four groups: junior and senior categories for both men and women. As competitors, adult women exhibited the most reluctance, but there was no shortage of volunteers, Turpin says.

"Little kids are very interested," he says. "One of the very small ones, she was very brave. She marched up to the front of the circle and just spit it out." Last year's popularity means this year's cricket spitting will be more organized, he says. It will include field judges wearing official uniforms, bleachers for the spectators and medals for those who launch their crickets the farthest.

"This is a formal type of activity. This is very serious business. We like to bill it as the sport of cricket done outside," Turpin quips.

Actually, the only serious goal of Bug Bowl is to give everybody a chance to learn a little bit more about insects.

"While they're here, people can pick up good information on the role of insects in nature and entomology. When we do the cockroach races, we always talk about the roaches' role in nature, roaches as pests, and roaches and allergies," Turpin says. "People will come up to me and say, 'Hey, I didn't know that there were 3,000 species of cockroaches in the world.'"

The event is free and open to the public. It runs from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, April 18, and from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday, April 19, in and around Entomology Hall on the Purdue campus. More information is available on the Web at

CONTACT: Turpin, (765) 494-4568; e-mail,

Separation anxiety No. 1 childhood anxiety, experts say

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. -- Many children fear the boogie man and the monster under the bed, but some children's fears have nothing to do with make-believe creatures. For them, separating from their parents -- even for a short time -- creates great physical or emotional distress.

"More children suffer from anxiety disorders than any other psychological problem," says Wendy Nilsen, graduate therapist in the Purdue University Anxiety Clinic. "The most common type of anxiety in children is fear of being separated from their parents." These children fear that they will become hurt or lost while away from their parents or that their parents will be in danger.

Nilsen says a child's natural temperament can play a part in separation anxiety. Also, many children go through a developmental stage where they fear strangers or separation from their parents -- usually starting at about age 9 months and ending about age 2, says Scott Vrana, associate professor of psychological sciences and director of the Anxiety Clinic. However, for some children the problem persists throughout childhood, even causing problems in adolescence and adulthood.

"Very often, it is not seen until the child starts preschool, or a parent takes a job outside the home for the first time," Vrana says. "Sometimes life stresses, such as a serious illness or changing schools, can trigger separation anxiety."

How do you know if your child needs help dealing with the problem? "If the child doesn't calm down within 10 minutes after you leave, or if the anxiety goes on for weeks -- those are signs that your child may need counseling for the problem," Vrana says. Other signals: A child who worries to the point of becoming sick or who refuses to play or sleep-over away from home.

Although parents generally don't cause the problem, they can contribute to it, Vrana says. "If children say they don't want to go to school or day care, and you let them stay home and play games and watch videos, then you aren't helping the situation," he says.

Vrana and Nilsen offer tips for all parents faced with children upset about being apart from them for a period of time:

CONTACTS: Vrana and Nilsen, (765) 494-6996; e-mail,

Compiled by Amanda Siegfried, (765) 494-4709; e-mail,
Purdue News Service: (765) 494-2096; e-mail,

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 1996 Bug Bowl. (Purdue News Service Photo by David Umberger)
Color photo, electronic transmission, and Web and ftp download available. Photo ID: Bug Bowl '96
Download here.

* To the Purdue News and Photos Page