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Bugs in Vegetables

Just curious, what and if you've ever found a bug(s) in store or market bought vegetables or other items?

A couple of weeks ago I found a ladybug in some parsley I had purchased from a Fairway grocery store. It was already dead, but as I was pulling more of the parsley apart, a small healthy looking caterpillar dropped out. It was the exact same light green color as the stems and the idea that I could have chopped it up and eaten it haunts me.

And last summer I bought corn from a farmer's market, when I got home and started to pull the husks off, I found a dark brown worm trapped in the silk in one of them. Thinking I could have squished it in my hand still haunts me also, lol.

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  1. I steamed an artichoke once and found a (dead, obviously) worm lurking between two of the inner leaves. Now I am more diligent about separating the leaves and rinsing the artichoke thoroughly before cooking.

    2 Replies
    1. re: small h

      I did too once or twice. Still, I never rinse my artichokes. A bug ain't gonna kill me.

      1. re: ttoommyy

        There are lots of things that won't kill me that I still prefer not to eat. In any case, I continue to enjoy artichokes. And corn on the cob, another bug sanctuary.

    2. An occasional larva is no big deal, as far as I'm concerned. Just think of the poisons that would be needed if you insisted your produce be bug-free.

      4 Replies
        1. <what and if you've ever found a bug(s) in store or market bought vegetables or other items?>

          Yes, a few times here and there, but probably no more than you have.

          <the idea that I could have chopped it up and eaten it haunts me.>

          And you are assuming that you have not eaten one before? :) You know what you know. Obviously, if you find an insect, you won't eat it, but you know you couldn't possible catch these incidents all the time, which means you probably have eaten a few bugs before, which means you lived and survived, which begs the question of why worry something you have done before.

          15 Replies
          1. re: Chemicalkinetics

            I'm pretty sure I've eaten my fair share of insects and their spawn considering the FDA allows a certain percentage of bug parts to remain floating around in dry goods and nut butters and whatever else. <bleah>

            I've just never found more than one, let alone two different types of insects, in the same bunch of store bought herbs, and never ladybugs. :)

            Hence, when I ask, it's not that I really care, it's out of curiosity which is why I prefaced my inquiry with being just curious. One of my friends told me she once tried to buy cabbage at a farmer's market but the guy selling them wouldn't charge her even though she insisted on paying. When she got home and started pulling the leaves apart to wash, there were more caterpillars than leaves, lol. She kept plucking them off until she finally gave up and threw the entire head out, lol.

            i want deets on what others found, wingspan, color, size, etc. so that I know that my friend and i are not alone in this world, haha.

            1. re: mushroomaffairs

              <considering the FDA allows a certain percentage of bug parts>

              I didn't know this. Thanks.

              <I've just never found more than one, let alone two different types of insects, in the same bunch of store bought herbs, and never ladybugs. :)>

              Maybe they don't get along and fought out insect battles. :) I have seen ladybug once.

              <there were more caterpillars than leaves>

              Ok, this is way too excessive.

              <i want deets on what others found, wingspan, color, size, etc>

              I see. One of my earliest bugs I found was a ladybug. It was either the first or second bug I have found, but I have never found another ladybug since then. Most of the time I found little flies or ant-like creature (but not really ants) -- black or dark brown insects smaller than sesame seed. I may have seen caterpillar/worm once. I particularly not like the worm-like creatures.

              By the way, I have found worms inside fruits. Again, I find worms repulsive, but the fact that they were "inside" the fruits is much worse than if they were crawling outside. I threw the fruits away.

              1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                <considering the FDA allows a certain percentage of bug parts>

                I didn't know this. Thanks.


                Had an old girlfriend who traded agricultural commodities. She used to refer to the allowable amount of "foreign particulate matter" that's allowed in a variety of food products like flour, pasta, chocolate, etc.

                I think the OP would get quite the hebejebes if he/she ever were to see the bugs that come along with the harvesting/storing of most produce/fruit/grains.

                1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                  I read years ago about exactly how many fly legs and wings were allowed in ground beef.

                  1. re: sandylc

                    Interesting, but how would one even count that? I assume you take a sample of ground beef, and then what? I am confused. Let's say if the flies were with the beef prior to the grinding process, then the flies' legs and wings are all ground up too. How would flies legs and wings get to ground beef AFTER the grinding process. Does the ground beef just sit around and the fruit flies come by? If so, I have more concern the fact that the ground beef just sit around for extended period of time.

                      1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                        FDA standards for defects (including insect parts and rodent hairs) in commodities define limits by count of pieces in a specified weight, or by weight in some cases:


                        Beef is regulated by the FSIS, not the FDA. The FSIS is mainly concerned with pathogens, not insects, as far as I can determine.

                        1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                          You know, CK, I tried to come up with a flip answer to the question: "Does the ground beef just sit around and the fruit flies come by?" I couldn't, but your phrase will live with me for a while. LOL, thanks!

                        2. re: sandylc

                          Can you provide a link to a government regulation on this subject?

                          1. re: GH1618

                            Nope. Just read about it many years ago, as stated.

                            1. re: GH1618


                              yes, it's wiki, but there's loads of links.

                              google "allowable percentage of insect parts in foodstuffs" for more links than I have time or interest in clicking.

                              1. re: sunshine842

                                That's not merely not an authoritative link, it doesn't mention ground beef. Sandylc was referring to ground beef, and ChemKinetics was questioning the implications for ground beef. I have an authoritative link for insect parts in those things regulated by the FDA, because I posted it myself. I don't have one for ground beef.

                                Thanks for trying, however.

                              2. re: GH1618

                                your local public health inspector can probably give you the details

                                1. re: GH1618

                                  I'd love to, but I read about it a VERY long time ago....

                                  1. re: GH1618

                                    But here's a great publication describing how many insect parts are allowed in other products:


                          2. Based on the kosher rules regarding leafy greens (spinach, cabbage, other greens) - I think it's probably safe to say that we've all eaten loads of insects in our veggies. Unless we're primarily only eating hydroponically grown produce.

                            3 Replies
                            1. re: cresyd

                              Funny, my first thought on reading the OP's post was, "That's why kashrut specifies checking all your leafy greens, etc. very thoroughly." Some practical application after all, it seems.

                              1. re: rockycat

                                Well, I think it depends on whether or not you feel removing such insects is practical or not.

                                Nevertheless, I do have to admit that buying the hydroponic mushrooms really cuts down on the amount of cleaning they need.

                                1. re: cresyd

                                  Maybe Terminex needs to be called?


                            2. I have found insects a few times, usually in leafy greens and a couple of times in celery, and that's to be expected, I think...along with the usual grit, dirt, etc. But it all comes out in the wash.

                              1. If it haunts you that you might have eaten any of the bugs, stay away from figs.

                                12 Replies
                                1. re: chowser

                                  I'm intrigued, what have you found? I have eaten many figs with bird bites taken from them but haven't noticed excessive insects.

                                  1. re: tcamp

                                    Fig wasps mate in them and then die. The crunchiness in them is both seeds and wasps. The fig starts the decomposition process so you might not see whole wasps. In bio class, we studied it and opened a bag of them and found some whole ones. But even if you don't see whole ones, there usually are some.

                                      1. re: ttoommyy

                                        Especially to a class of college sophomores. The "eewww" was simultaneous when we found them (this was far more years ago than I'll admit).

                                      2. re: chowser

                                        Wow, amazing. I had no idea. Once a vegan acquaintance told me he didn't eat figs but he couldn't explain why and I chalked it up to nuttiness. Oops.

                                        1. re: chowser

                                          OK, now this I didn't know. But ttoommyy's link does said the crunchiness *is* just the seeds - not any wasps, as the protein in the fig breaks down her carcass. I'm a good bit better reading that. :-)

                                          1. re: LindaWhit

                                            I wonder if it depends on which stage the fig is picked and whether they had the chance to "digest" it. Because I do remember finding wasps in bio class. It's been a long time, as I said, but they might have been dried figs, not that it should matter.

                                          2. re: chowser

                                            You just ruined my life. Thanks.

                                            1. re: Isolda

                                              Ahh, it's just figs. It's not as if I told you there were bugs in chocolate or wine. But, don't drink the tequila.

                                              1. re: chowser

                                                Ah hell, you wouldn't believe what I've found in bottles of mezcal.

                                                1. re: DuchessNukem

                                                  And what I heard years ago about some Snickers bars...

                                        2. It's just mother nature giving you a wakeup call. We've all eaten a few bugs in our life. It has not affected my health.
                                          Rather pick a few bugs off my ear of corn than eat more poison.

                                          1. I once tossed a newly purchased cauliflower in the fridge (not the vegetable drawer), planning to chop it in a couple of hours. When I opened the door, there was a big fat green worm reaching from said cauliflower to the milk carton.

                                            However, I also grow lots of vegetables, and I've seen more than my share of corn worms, tomato hornworms, and various other creepy fauna. I'm not easily squeaked, so I just pull off the creepy crawlies, wash stuff well, and proceed with chowing down.

                                            8 Replies
                                            1. re: pine time

                                              First time as newlyweds the husband and I grew tomatoes, and I walked in the garden and found a tomato hornworm. I nearly died.

                                              Then just flicked it off and picked the tomatoes. Bumper crop that first year. Made lots of pasta sauce.

                                              Still, pretty ugly thing it was.

                                              1. re: breadchick

                                                One summer when I was a kid, we had a bunch of these in our yard:


                                                They were huge!

                                                1. re: sandylc


                                                  What side dish did you serve with them - ha!

                                                  1. re: sandylc


                                                    (the adorable -- und wunderbar! -- caterpillar from the Pixar kid-flick, A Bug's Life -- very worth watching)

                                                        1. re: sunshine842

                                                          Oh my gosh, now I feel guilty for chopping them to bits!

                                                          1. re: pine time

                                                            naaah. They're only cute when they're computer-generated and on a screen.

                                                            ask me about my Frat Boy™ slugs.

                                                  2. It's completely normal to find a few bugs in your produce, especially if buying fresh, local from a farm stand. I've had a few small worms in cauliflower and broccoli, ladybugs in my strawberries, and assorted dead insects in leafy greens and leeks. Better a few bugs than a ton of insecticide.

                                                    I just wash everything well and enjoy it.

                                                    1. Totally normal to find bugs every now and then. Tells you that the produce is being grown outside and not manufactured. Once found a caterpillar in a head of lettuce. Young son insisted we keep it. Put it in an old goldfish bowl with some twigs and fed it bits of lettuce leaves. Eventually spun a web in which we could see the cocoon. Put a piece of cardboard over the top of the bowl. One day there was a moth inside. Opened the window to free it. Son was fascinated by the whole process.

                                                      1 Reply
                                                      1. re: Bkeats

                                                        We did that a few times as kids. We got a cecropia caterpillar once and the magnificent creature that came from that was really memorable!


                                                      2. I visited a famous tea plantation in India. No porta-potties in the growing areas, and was flat out told that the pickers used the tea plants/surrounding areas as their toilets.

                                                        Then we toured the tea packing plant--while the "tiny tea leaves" went through a couple of steps where air was blown to separate twigs, etc, at no point were the leaves washed. Then they went straight to packing.

                                                        I don't drink tea.

                                                        4 Replies
                                                        1. re: pine time

                                                          Do you drink elephant dung coffee? It amazes me the price it commands.

                                                          1. re: sandylc

                                                            No, nor the civet cat pee (I think) coffee, either.

                                                            1. re: pine time

                                                              We had palm civets living in our ceiling in our house in Sri Lanka. Disgusting things. Peed through the ceiling. And they're nocturnal creatures, so they make enough noise that you'd swear they're moving furniture up there in the middle of the night.

                                                          2. re: pine time

                                                            There was a recent survey of popular tea bags that found 8 of the matter is non veg. Just try and explain to your father that his tea bags aren't really vegetarian!

                                                          3. Keep in mind that you have eaten plenty of bugs if you have ever eaten bread, even homemade---it's in the flour. All part of nature.

                                                            1. since i favor buying fresh, organic, vegetables and fruit, finding a bug doesn't "haunt" me.
                                                              on the other had, the idea of fruit and vegetables being coated with pesticides and herbicides does haunt me.

                                                              to me, the worst of all worlds is getting the chemical-laden fruits and vegetables that STILL have bugs on them because the bugs have become resistant to the chemicals.

                                                              1. if you are truly bug-averse, maybe it will help you to know that ladybugs are profligate consumers of aphids.
                                                                the fact that a ladybug was on your food, probably meant that you didn't inadvertently consume many MORE aphids (which are less visible).

                                                                2 Replies
                                                                1. re: westsidegal

                                                                  And since birds and frogs eat ladybugs, ...

                                                                  1. re: GH1618

                                                                    yup, following the logic, if the OP REALLY hated seeing bugs in his/her food, s/he probably shouldn't mind seeing evidence of birds/frogs. . . .
                                                                    of course, this wouldn't include the types of birds that also eat the same foodstuff.. . .

                                                                2. Try growing your own garden -- that'll resolve any hauntings, pronto.

                                                                  1. Join a CSA and you will find lots of little bugs. No gross infestations, just critters enjoying your $800 produce. I learned to wash very carefully and then wash again.

                                                                    With supermarket produce, I don't see bugs as often, but I have found the occasional caterpillar, worm or tiny beetle, even in that boxed lettuce mix. The worst offender in my experience is watercress. I wash that in multiple changes of water no matter how clean it looks.

                                                                    1. When I lived in Sri Lanka, I was *always* pulling bugs out of vegetables. Worms in eggplant, cauliflower, broccoli, carrots, potatoes, onions... Yeah, they're everywhere. You learn how to inspect for them and cut around them pretty quick. And you never ever ever cook vegetables whole, especially not eggplant, which are the worst for worms.

                                                                      Edited to add: Also, flour and rice. Worms, weevils, other bugs. Usually, I just wash the rice and sift the flour - pretty much every bag of rice or flour has bugs of some description, but sometimes, it's just not possible. One bag of flour was so dense with worms that there were webs everywhere in it. It was probably at least half worms and webbing. SO beyond what I'm used to. That, naturally, got tossed.

                                                                      1. i guess I'm kind of the opposite.
                                                                        It's when I ~haven't~ found bugs in a long time that I become very very concerned.
                                                                        Not a big fan of pesticides.

                                                                        1 Reply
                                                                        1. re: pedalfaster

                                                                          Pesticides killed my father. He frantically sprayed every bit of our property regularly until he developed asthma. Then the drugs the doctors forced upon him "so he could breathe" raised his blood pressure.....and so on.....

                                                                        2. I would say there are small, dead bugs of some sort near the bottom if most heads of romaine that I purchase.

                                                                          Also, as I understand it, the fruit flies you see buzzing around were in/on the fruit all along; they just weren't visible until they hatched!

                                                                          1. Did they charge extra for them?

                                                                            If priced by the pound, and you do not want the bugs, or worms, just tell them to NOT charge you for them.


                                                                            1. I used to cook at a place where we got much of our produce from our own organic garden. One time I was washing lettuce and something the water bit me! Lots of bugs in freshly picked organic produce..

                                                                              1. If you eat Vegetables you eat bugs. Whether you see them or not they are there.

                                                                                2 Replies
                                                                                1. re: chefj

                                                                                  I agree. Clean em up as much as you can, but you're bound to miss a few of em. god knows how many bugs i have eaten since i largely eat my veggies and fruits from my own garden or from the farmers market. as long as i dont eat any worms or anything large enough to make me grimace, im fine.

                                                                                  1. re: chefj

                                                                                    the bugs in vegetables, in terms of their "gross" factor, pale in comparison to some of the things found in meat, and fish.

                                                                                  2. Yes, and this is why I never want to have an organic artichoke ever again in my life.

                                                                                    I had received an organic cooked artichoke, and after eating all of the outer leaves, I began to see some leaves had chewed holes in them... and more leaves later, to my horror, there were many of these dead white-ish worms! It was so horrifying, I spat as much as I could out, and washed my mouth. I've got a huge fear of insects, and although worms aren't technically insects, they also freak me out, especially if I find out I'm eating them.

                                                                                    So, never again.
                                                                                    Let me have my chemical-covered vegetables/fruits, please. >_<

                                                                                    4 Replies
                                                                                    1. re: Pikangie

                                                                                      Hate to freak you out but you are eating them everyday

                                                                                      1. re: chefj

                                                                                        Not in their whole form that you would find if they were lying there in the food. If I can't see/feel them in my food, that's fine, but if I see them, it goes to the trash. :(

                                                                                        1. re: Pikangie

                                                                                          Yes, in their whole form. Whether you notice them or not....

                                                                                      2. re: Pikangie

                                                                                        Sorry to laugh at your misery, but your post reminded me of the old joke about finding 1/2 of a worm in an apple you've been eating.....

                                                                                      3. Don't even think about eating morel mushrooms. They are the buggiest things ever. But the bugs taste just like morel mushrooms. :)

                                                                                        Right now, my house is full of ladybugs. They hibernate in cracks and crevices in the walls and the warm weather is waking them up. If I find one in my lettuce, I figure it is locally grown.

                                                                                        10 Replies
                                                                                        1. re: sparrowgrass

                                                                                          Ugh, I started some herbs in pots a while back, putting them on a sunny windowseat. Just found aphids encrusting the beautiful basil. Out of nowhere. The basil now gets to fend for itself in the coming snowstorm.

                                                                                          1. re: sandylc

                                                                                            Hopefully you'll cook the poor dear bugs some linguine tossed in olive oil and garlic! Tis a shame to let that basil go to waste.

                                                                                            Also, hopefully you can get more basil started before spring. We DO get spring this year, right???

                                                                                            (Bummer about the snow. What a winter! )

                                                                                            1. re: sandylc

                                                                                              1 teapoon of soap (not detergent) in a quart of warm water - pour into a spray bottle...no more aphids.

                                                                                              Bring the basil...and the aphids...back inside. The aphids have no interest in anything other than plants.

                                                                                              1. re: sunshine842

                                                                                                I have kind of a bad history with aphids. For two entire winters I battled them on two giant potted bay laurel trees that we brought in from the patio. First we dutifully sprayed them down with water, then attacked with the dishwater mister before bringing them in, but they still had aphids.

                                                                                                Aphids drip goo. I thought the aphids were gone from the tree next to the couch, but they weren't. The goo got into my hair (and on the carpet and furniture) and nothing would get it out. I got the last of it out of my hair about 8 months later.

                                                                                                I refuse to mess with aphids again. They are creatures from hell.

                                                                                                1. re: sandylc

                                                                                                  you need some of sparrowgrass's ladybugs...Everybody would be happy!

                                                                                              2. re: sandylc

                                                                                                if you can get your hands on some ladybugs they will eat the aphids off of your basil

                                                                                                  1. re: sandylc

                                                                                                    sparrowgrass has them in her house -- and I used to have a little cluster of them every year in the last house I lived in. I didn't bother them while they slept, and they didn't bother me -- but I did open a window as soon as they began to wake up!

                                                                                              3. re: sparrowgrass

                                                                                                soak the morels in salty water, then rinse well.

                                                                                              4. We don't mind the odd bug, but try to avoid live ones.

                                                                                                No-one here has mentioned briefly soaking produce in brine and rinsing which kills and removes most "friendlies" as we call them in our house.

                                                                                                Dead ones lose their grip on leaf and rinse out more easily except for slugs which dissolve. Those we remove by inspection.

                                                                                                2 Replies
                                                                                                1. re: DockPotato

                                                                                                  Yep, we soak our cauliflower and broccoli in salt water to remove/kill bugs. Works great. :)

                                                                                                  1. re: DockPotato

                                                                                                    So funny -- I just made that comment to the post immediately above!

                                                                                                  2. green worms right up near the 'flower' of the broccoli. put me off for awhile. before I cooked.

                                                                                                    Boyfriend has had it the worst a half of some kind of worm in his banana.

                                                                                                    Bought some vietnamese salad rolls from the grocery store, two cut in half. Ate two pieces and then noticed teeny tiny white spiders crawling around all over the other pieces. Sounds like some sort of spider mite.

                                                                                                    1. I once found maggots on my cutting board. Probably came from the veggies for salad I made ( which I took a few bites of as I was preparing it) but I was so freaked out I threw out the salad, the chicken wings I made, and a piece if salmon I broiled. It was all coked my husband was like " no! Not the wings - I'll eat them." In the garbage it went . I proceeded to bleach the entire kitchen floor to ceiling. I didn't even change first - got bleach stains all over my pants and shirt as I scrubbed the floor on my hands and knees for two hours.

                                                                                                      A ladybug or caterpillar doesn't freak me out as bad as maggots though. Go figure...

                                                                                                      5 Replies
                                                                                                      1. re: Siegal

                                                                                                        There is literally no logical way an actual "maggot' came from any vegetable. Maggots only live off dead meat. NO exceptions. You saw worms of some sort which live on vegetables. I funny part is you've probably eaten a pound of these type worms in your life time so far and never knew it.
                                                                                                        I once read that most of the worlds surface has been shit on by birds and animals for eons. Look at that field of carrots. Any idea how many birds have flown over it and took a dump?
                                                                                                        Just wash your veg well.

                                                                                                          1. re: sandylc

                                                                                                            A bit conforming - prefer worms to maggots. Lol

                                                                                                          2. re: Puffin3

                                                                                                            Carrots are not such a good example for the problem of airborne dumpsters. Still, I agree - a vegetable or fruit field is nature's loo.

                                                                                                            1. re: Puffin3

                                                                                                              Yet another opportunity to improve our immune system.

                                                                                                          3. When I was a student, approximately a century ago, my roommate and I bought some veggies at a farmer's market (yes they had them in CA back them). We bought a bunch of corn that all had worms in them. I was totally freaked out. Now, I'd just whack that end of the cob off (I'm not cool enough to just pluck it out) and go ahead and cook it.

                                                                                                            5 Replies
                                                                                                            1. re: DGresh

                                                                                                              Some summers, we grow a few rows of corn, and I've been amused when we share the excess produce with friends & neighbors who were aghast at a bug or two: I've taken to completely shucking the corn so folks don't ever find a corn worm. Do they think veggies grow free of bugs and dirt?

                                                                                                              1. re: pine time

                                                                                                                yes. They also never have bruises or other imperfections. All vegetables emerge from their cellophane cloak from the grocery store picture-perfect and uniform.

                                                                                                                and meat comes from supermarkets in cellophane-wrapped styrofoam trays.

                                                                                                                1. re: sunshine842

                                                                                                                  We had a veggie garden when I was a kid. I still remember the taste of sun warmed tomatoes plucked from their vines, rubbed on our shirts, and eaten then and there. They were so juicy and had that strong herbal smell from the leaves and stems. Nothing better.

                                                                                                                  I have extensive perennial gardens, but may need to start some veggies this year - memories of those tomatoes yes!

                                                                                                                  1. re: breadchick

                                                                                                                    I don't even bother with rubbing the warm tomato on my shirt--just an instant sun-kissed snack! Not even washed--I live dangerously. A friend's young daughter was visiting, and she was totally agog at vegetables growing in our yard--had never seen anything other than the "cellophane cloak" that sunshine wrote about. Next visit, we sent her home with her own little potted tomato plant. Her mom said she was in heaven when she got her first 'mater (we're childless, so I took vicarious pleasure at introducing a child to gardening).

                                                                                                                    1. re: pine time

                                                                                                                      teach a child to fish (or grow vegetables...)....

                                                                                                            2. The things in your food that you can NOT see are actually scarier (health wise) than the ones you can.

                                                                                                              Signs of insect life are usually a good thing. Means the crop hasn't been over sprayed with toxic chemicals or the seeds haven't been crazy over-hybrid-ized.