Edward Archbold was willing to do anything to win an exotic python — even eating bugs both crunchy and slimy.
His competitive spirit ended in tragedy.
After downing more than 20 giant creepy-crawlies, Archbold vomited, collapsed and died. The grand prize has been put aside in his name and will be given to his estate.
Friday night’s contest at a Deerfield Beach reptile store started with a party atmosphere, with food and drink – besides the bugs. The insect-eating began with an eye on the prize: a female Ivory Ball python that sells for $700.
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Archbold, 32, wasn’t a “snake enthusiast” himself, said shop owner Ben Siegel, and it was the first time the West Palm Beach man had been in the store. Siegel described Archbold as someone who would be “up for anything.”
“He seemed like kind of a wild guy – he was wearing a bandanna, wrist bands and a shirt that said ‘Event Staff,’” Siegel said. “He was brought there by his friend, and he was trying to win the snake for him.”
According to rules posted in an online forum, the prize would go to “the guy or gal that eats the most bugs in 4 minutes without vomiting.”
Archbold was a crowd-pleaser, stuffing his mouth with fistfuls of discoid roaches and worms and winning the contest. But he started throwing up before he was able to collect the prize python.
He collapsed outside the store and was taken to Broward Health North where he was pronounced dead.
His body was taken to the Broward Medical Examiner’s Office, and investigators with the Broward Sheriff’s Office are awaiting an autopsy report to determine what killed him.
The store owner said it wasn’t the food.
Discoid roaches, Siegel said, are “eaten by people all over the world.”
The roaches served up at the contest were domestically raised. “They’re clean – raised for exotic pet feed,” Siegel said. “We sell expensive animals, and these bugs are perfectly safe.”
The “Midnight Madness” bug contest was the first one at Ben Siegel Reptiles on West Hillsboro Road, although an employee said “customers or close friends will eat them all the time as a dare.” Renee, who declined to give her last name, said she has also eaten bugs.
“The horn worm kind of tastes like a melon, but it has a sweet flavor. Crickets don’t really taste like anything, and meal worms have a kind of nutty flavor,” she said. “I’ve eaten the roaches too, but just the baby ones.”
Nearly 30 people participated in the contest Friday night, according to Siegel, including his brother Andy and a close friend who ate just one less bug than the winner Archbold. None of the other contestants got sick.
All the bug-eaters were “entirely aware of what they were doing,” and they “signed thorough waivers accepting responsibility for their participation in this unique and unorthodox contest,” according to a statement issued through the store’s attorney, Luke Lirot.
The insect-eating that grossed out observers on Friday night is not so unusual in other parts of the world.
Edwin Lewis, an entomologist at the University of California at Davis, described the surprisingly enjoyable experience of eating cooked waterbugs in Thailand, which are not too far removed from cockroaches.
“It’s kind of gross, but if he chewed them up, they wouldn’t be doing much to him,” Lewis said. “It wouldn’t be any different than eating a shrimp.”
Lewis suspected that an allergic reaction could have been the cause of death.
Siegal said he’d never heard of anyone dying from eating discoids.
“It’s nothing but pure, clean protein.”