Bugs in lettuce are annoying and can be a deal-breaker when lettuce is severely infested. Nobody wants to accidentally ingest lettuce bugs, even if they have extra protein in them!
But the real question is, can you eat lettuce with bugs after washing?
Once the bugs have been removed and rinsed off, the lettuce is safe to eat. Some types of lettuce bugs like aphids are edible and aren’t harmful to humans, so you don’t have to worry if you accidentally ingest them.
In this article, we’ve shared information on identifying and removing lettuce bugs. Let’s dive in!
What Are Lettuce Bugs or Aphids?
Lettuce bugs come in multiple colors ranging from green to orange to pink. The adults have black marks on their leg joints and antennae. Some also have black markings on the abdomen and may be winged or wingless.
Lettuce bugs have prolific reproduction, which can upset any home gardener! Lettuce bugs are capable of reproducing without any sexual activity. Just a couple of bugs in lettuce rapidly become an infestation if not controlled.
The real problem is how to control lettuce bugs. They are difficult to spot because they hide deep in the center of the lettuce. In loose-leaved lettuce varieties, the insects are more readily visible and can be viewed on the inner young leaves.
How to Check Lettuce For Bugs?
Are Green Lettuce Bugs Harmful?
Bugs are the most common pest encountered when growing leafy greens. They are small, soft-bodied insects with small heads. You will commonly see bugs on the undersides of leaves.
While lettuce bugs aren’t harmful, they can damage fruits and vegetables by poking holes. In most cases, insect damage doesn’t render lettuce inedible. If bugs take a little chew out of your lettuce or leave a small hole, you can cut away the damage and eat what is left.
What About Tiny Black Bugs on Lettuce?
Finding bugs in the lettuce you purchased in-store isn’t a pleasant experience. So, you should first consider what type of bug you’ve found.
If you see a brown recluse spider, pitch the head of your lettuce into the closest bonfire and be happy you didn’t get it on you.
If the bug is less intimidating, like a grasshopper or an aphid, then you’ve got to make a decision. And if you can’t accept that lettuces are grown in the dirt amongst bugs, birds, and turds, throw them in the trash. But If you are smart enough to know that lettuce is grown in bug-ingested fields, then you can fill your sink with ice-cold water and get rid of lettuce bugs.
Here’s how you can wash bugs off lettuce:
Cut the stem off the lettuce and plunge the head into the ice-cold water. Remove the leaves and carefully spread them within the sink. Now let the leaves soak for a few minutes.
The ice-cold water will drive out any lettuce bugs, remove dirt on the leaves, and also make lettuce nice and crisp.
Once you’re sure that the lettuce bugs have drowned, let your lettuce dry in a salad spinner and refrigerate it until you are ready to eat.
What Outbreaks Are Linked to Lettuce?
From 2014–to 2018, a total of 51 foodborne diseases linked to lettuce and other leafy greens were reported to the Center for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC). Five of the 51 led CDC to warn the public. Among those outbreaks, two were linked to romaine lettuce, and two were linked to packaged salads containing lettuce and other leafy greens.
Most recently, CDC warned the public about nine disease outbreaks linked to leafy greens. Most foodborne diseases are not part of a recognized outbreak. Nearly 2,000 illnesses reported in 2014–2020 outbreaks linked to leafy greens represent a small part of illnesses caused by leafy greens during those years.
Safely Handling and Preparing Lettuce?
Do I need to wash lettuce?
Prewashed lettuce doesn’t need to be washed again. If the label on a lettuce package says any of the following, you don’t need to wash it:
- Triple washed
- No washing necessary
All other lettuces should be thoroughly washed before cutting, cooking, and eating.
What is the best way to wash lettuce?
The best way to wash lettuce is by rinsing them under running water. This step removes some of the germs and dirt on lettuce and other vegetables and fruits. But no manual washing method can remove all germs.
Follow these steps to wash lettuce that you plan to eat raw:
- Wash your hands for 15 seconds with soap and water before and after preparing lettuce.
- Get rid of any damaged or bruised leaves. Also, get rid of the outer leaves of lettuce heads.
- Rinse the remaining lettuce leaves under running water. Use your hands to gently rub and get rid of germs and dirt.
- Dry lettuce with a clean cloth or tea towel.
How to Get Bugs off Your Lettuce?
Usually, the first thing you read about when controlling lettuce bugs in your garden is to try to blast them off with a good stream of water. While this some of the bugs off lettuce, it won’t do much for a true infestation.
Here are some steps you can take to prevent a bug infestation in your garden:
Use Commercial Insecticidal Soap
This will help remove bugs off your lettuce.
Spray with Neem oil
This will give a better result than using soap and water. Spray once the sun has gone down, as Neem oil can damage plants in direct sun. Also, this lets the morning dew wash off the majority of the oil by morning.
Use Row Covers
You can grow your lettuce under row covers, which in theory, should work. Of course, if even one bug gets under the covers, you’d have an army sucking away on lettuces.
You can resort to chemical controls as a final resort. But given that lettuce is eaten raw no less, I would steer clear.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can you get sick from bugs in lettuce?
The chances of getting sick from bugs in lettuce are very low. Still, you can take safety measures and wash your lettuce thoroughly to avoid getting sick.
Can lettuce bugs harm humans?
Lettuce bugs cannot harm humans, and they are not poisonous to them. These insects only feed on plants. However, while bugs may not cause physical harm, they can cause emotional stress to humans by the damage they cause.
What to do if you find bugs in lettuce?
Separate the leaves and spread them within the sink. Then, let them soak for a few minutes. The ice-cold water will drown those pesky bugs.
What do aphids taste like?
There are many types of aphids, and they have different lettuce preferences. If there are lettuces around, you’re sure to find an edible variety. What aphids feed on can affect what they taste like. Depending on the type of lettuce they’ve been eating, lettuce bugs can range from slightly bitter to sweet.
How to get rid of aphids on lettuce?
You can get rid of aphids by wiping the plant leaves with a mild solution of water and dish soap.