Florida man drops dead after eating bugs to win exotic pet python
Edward Archbold bested the competition by consuming 20 roaches and worms, then died
Edward Archbold was willing to do anything to win an exotic python - even eating cockroaches.
His competitive spirit ended in tragedy.
After downing more than 20 roaches and worms in a pet store contest, Archbold vomited, collapsed and died. The grand prize, a female ivory ball python that sells for US$700, has been put aside in his name and will be given to his estate.
Friday night's contest at a Deerfield Beach, Florida, reptile store started with a party atmosphere, with food and drink - besides the bugs.
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 four minutes without vomiting". Archbold was a crowd-pleaser, downing large, winged cockroaches and worms one by one, eventually 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 what he ate. 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, although an employee said "customers or close friends will eat them all the time as a dare".
Nearly 30 people took part in the contest on Friday night, according to Siegel, including his brother Andy and a close friend who ate just one fewer 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.
Edwin Lewis, an entomologist at the University of California at Davis who has eaten waterbugs in Thailand, said there was nothing inherently dangerous about eating discoid roaches.
"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 had never heard of anyone dying from eating discoids roaches.
"It's nothing but pure, clean protein," he said.