One of the rites of spring here at Purdue University is an event appropriately called Spring Fest. This family-friendly event draws thousands of people to the campus over a single weekend. It is a fun-filled way to provide a glimpse of what is going on within the hallowed halls of "Good Ol' Purdue."
The Department of Entomology contributes to Spring Fest with Bug Bowl. This will be the 24th edition of this "all things insect" celebration. Bug Bowl participants have the opportunity to mimic the behavior of our long-lost ancestors and turn insects into human food. Paleo diet, anyone? If eating insects isn't your thing, you can cheer on racing cockroaches, peer through a microscope at small insects or actually touch an insect or arachnid at the petting zoo.
While it hasn't always been a part of Bug Bowl, cricket spitting is an event where you can put your athletic prowess to the test. Introduced as a Bug Bowl event in 1977, this is a contest where you see how far you can spit a cricket.
Cricket spitting rules are simple. Grab a cricket, plop it into your mouth and expectorate for all you're worth. How far that cricket flies is a measure of your cricket-spitting prowess.
Of course, any competitive event must have official rules. That is the case with cricket spitting. There is an official species of cricket with which to spit. These are brown house crickets. The crickets must be of an approved weight - between 45 and 55 milligrams. It must have all of its appendages including six legs, four wings and two antennae. No defective crickets in this contest! The crickets are frozen and allowed to thaw just prior to spitting.
The contest has four judges. First, there is the cricket keeper. As you might imagine, that person is in charge of the crickets. The cricket keeper presents the spitter with three crickets aligned on a silver platter. Second, the circle judge - the head official - directs the spitter to select a cricket and put it in his or her mouth. Next, the circle judge has to confirm that no part of the cricket is showing from the spitter's mouth. Then, the spitter is instructed to step into the spitting circle.
Once in the spitting circle, the spitter is required to expectorate within 20 seconds. It normally doesn't take that long! Once the cricket comes to rest, it is the job of the cricket spotter to find it. At this point, the tape master will place the tape at the cricket. The tape will be stretched from the cricket to the toe board of spitting circle by the circle judge, and an official distance will be shouted aloud to the delight of cricket-spitting fans in attendance.
Cricket spitting at Purdue Bug Bowl is divided into four categories of competition: men and women with junior and senior age brackets in each. The breaking point in the age category is 15. I know curious minds want to know: How far can you spit a cricket anyway? Here are the current records at Purdue. In junior women, the record is 27 feet, 5.5 inches. The record is 28-2.75 inches for senior women. For men, the junior record-holder blasted a cricket 28 feet. The best spit for senior men is the course record of 40-3.
Bug Bowl is not the only place to participate in a little cricket spitting. A quick perusal of the Web shows that hundreds of places have incorporated cricket spitting into events. A few of the published sites are other universities, county and state fairs, PTO fundraising events and corporate picnics; even a political event or two have a cricket-spitting contest. There are cricket-spitting contests outside of the U.S., too.
There is a Guinness world record for cricket spitting. The record was set when the first- and second-year senior men's contest winners from Bug Bowl traveled to the Guinness World Record show to establish the record. The record-holder is Dan Capps with a distance of 32-05.
Cricket spitting has spread far and wide, following that first contest at Bug Bowl. It all started at the Insects as Food booth when some fellow proclaimed that he couldn't put a cricket in his mouth, or if he did, he would spit it from here to that tree! And that, friends, sparked the idea for a cricket-spitting contest. The rest, as they say, is history.