May 05, 1997 12:00 PM

IT’S CRICKET SEASON AGAIN IN WEST Lafayette, Ind. But the sportsmen and sportswomen competing on Purdue’s Agricultural Mall weren’t actually playing cricket. They were spitting dead crickets—for distance. The reason for their great expectorations: Purdue University’s Bug Bowl, an annual celebration of all those critters that crawl, jump and fly, and that you’d rather not have down your neck.

The Bug Bowl, which started off modestly in 1990 as just another cockroach race, is the brainchild of Tom Turpin, 53, an entomologist at Purdue for the last 25 years. It’s his way of celebrating the glory of the insect world in a way that your exterminator simply will not. “I’m not into making you an entomologist,” says Turpin. “I want you to know more about insects.”

For the non-cricket-minded, the Bug Bowl, which ran over the April 18 weekend and drew an estimated 12,000 human visitors and an incalculable number of nonparticipating bugs, also featured a cockroach tractor pull (small tractors, very large roaches). And there were ample opportunities to sample such delicacies as Mealworm Chow Mein and Caterpillar Crunch with Wax Worms.

Brian Adams, 9, of Lafayette, reluctantly sampled the Mealworm Stir Fry—the worms sautéed live with green onions, garlic, ginger and hot bean paste. “I only swallowed one worm,” he reported afterward. Said his father, Tom: “We’re going to have to clean out his braces.”

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