Thursday, October 11, 2012

Memo to Would –be Live Roach Eaters: Don’t Do It!

By now the story is fairly well known, at least to those in Florida. A father of two young kids arrived for a live roach eating contest to win a coveted pet Ball python for his friend. Spectators at the event, “The Midnight Madness” bug eating contest, said Eddie Archbold ate so many live roaches he had to cover his mouth with his hand to keep them from crawling out.

These were claimed (by the organizer's lawyer) to be nice "discoid" clean -cut ("sterilized") small roaches raised on roach ‘farms’ and usually for  the purpose of reptile feed. But how do we know, other than his word?  Besides, what would you expect a lawyer to say? Having lived in Florida I am familiar with the Florida variety, 3” long each,  and laden with fungi, bacteria (e.g. salmonella) that you wouldn’t want a junk yard pit bull to consume, far less a human.

Archbold evidently swallowed the three-inch insects faster than he could chew, trying to down as many as possible in four minutes.

This is already a bad idea, given the critters are alive – hence able to crawl up the esophagus (and if you’ve ever seen a Fla. Roach in action, discoid too,  you’d see what they can do), thus there’s the choking danger.

Still medical experts are puzzled. It could be weeks before an autopsy can determine why the West Palm Beach man died. But the experts said that eating roaches, while disgusting, shouldn’t have killed him.

In addition, none of the other participants in the competition at Ben Siegel Reptiles in Deerfield Beach on Friday night got sick. There were four 'Ball pythons' to be won, and so many people signed up, the store owner decided to have a meal-worm-eating qualifying round.

According to Matthew Karwacki, a 26-year-old student contestant from Florida Career College in Lauderdale Lakes (who won a lesser platinum ball python in the cricket-eating contest):

“I guess if you really want a snake you can eat a hell of a lot of bugs.”

Meanwhile, over the course of the contest stages, Archbold ate more than 60 grams of meal worms, 35 three-inch-long “super worms” and part of a bucket full of roaches. He started vomiting after the last contest and collapsed outside the store. WHAT caused it? Perhaps entomolygist Dr. Bill Kern  gives the most plausible answer:

Kern, a professor of entomology at the University of Florida, said it could have been an allergic reaction to so much foreign protein that killed Archbold. He went on:

“We know cockroaches shed a lot of allergens, but they’re not toxic in and of themselves. Very few [human] cultures tend to eat cockroaches because they store large amounts of uric acid and nitrogenous waste. And they tend to be scavengers and feed on things most people wouldn’t consider to be desirable.”

Aaarrgh! No wonder my pet Rottweilers in Barbados never used to touch 'em!

All the contestants on Friday night signed a waiver acknowledging the risks of “1) Gastrointestinal illness; 2) Adverse allergic reactions — especially in those with shellfish allergies; 3) Injury or pain associated with consuming live insects as they pass through the esophagus.”

Karwacki added:

“I just had one roach and tapped out after that. The taste did not suit me, but the texture for sure was the worst part If you could look inside a dirty gutter and scoop up what’s in there, that’s what went through my head. All the other contestants kept eating roaches, but I had to look away.”

Moral of the story: If you want a pet python that badly, first don't be fussy about the breed.  Just go to the Everglades and round one up! There are an estimated 30,000 inhabiting it now.

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