Accidentally Ingested a Lettuce Worm or Insect. What to Do?

Sometimes, when you bite into a piece of Lettuce, you get a texture you didn’t quite expect. Maybe it has a little different crunch than regular Lettuce, or maybe it’s mushy and writhes when you bite it. 

It is perfectly normal to find bugs and other animals on your Lettuce. This is one of the reasons that it is so important to make sure that your produce is properly washed. You likely don’t have to worry if you ingest a worm or insect with your Lettuce, most of them will easily be killed by your stomach acid and provide you with extra nutrients. 

However, if you are finding bugs in your Lettuce, it usually means that you didn’t wash it well enough. If that is the case, you may want to look at washing your Lettuce properly in the future. Other issues can come with unwashed Lettuce, including bacteria and parasites. 

What Kind of Bugs Live in Lettuce?

There are many kinds of bugs that like to eat Lettuce. These bugs often like Lettuce so much that they end up living on the plant. 

Some common bugs to find include:

  • Lettuce aphids
  • Armyworms
  • Vegetable weevils
  • Whiteflies
  • Garden symphylans
  • Snails/Slugs
  • Thrips
  • Caterpillars
  • Darkling beetles
  • Corn earworms
  • Flea beetles
  • Leaf miners
  • Crickets
  • Nematodes
  • Grasshoppers

Then, there are some small animals that don’t necessarily eat Lettuce but can be found in the area or on the plant, such as worms, butterflies, frogs, and pill bugs. 

These are all common insects you can expect to live in Lettuce, especially if you are growing it. However, occasionally, you may find insects in Lettuce when you don’t expect to. 

Is it Normal to Find Bugs on Organic Lettuce?

It is indeed normal to find bugs in and on organic Lettuce. Since organic products do not often use chemical pesticides, there is often a higher chance to find bugs in your organic Lettuce than in standard Lettuce.

They do still use pesticides, however, so while it is fairly normal to find bugs on your organic Lettuce, it isn’t very common either. 

Does Iceberg Lettuce Have Bugs?

Lettuce iceberg
Iceberg Lettuce can have bugs as well, whether it is organic or not. Worms, aphids, and leafminers are the most common animals and bugs you can expect to find in iceberg Lettuce. 

With Lettuce, it can be hard to check for bugs before cutting them open, especially iceberg Lettuce, which is packed tightly. So you may find bugs in your Lettuce even if you bought it from a store that claims it was washed and ready. 

Can Bugs in Lettuce Make You Sick?

Unfortunately, even if you clean and wash your Lettuce carefully, you may miss a bug or two. This means that you may end up eating one of the bugs that have made Lettuce their home. Thankfully, bugs in Lettuce cannot make you sick. Most of the time, your stomach acid will kill any bug that might have still been alive, and kill off anything in the bug.

The worst that happens is that you get a little extra protein in your diet, or get a weird texture on your piece of Lettuce that doesn’t feel right. 

What if I Find a Bug in My Lettuce?

While eating insects isn’t inherently dangerous, it is a sign that your Lettuce wasn’t washed properly. This can lead to other problems. You can get a few bacterial infections. 

The most common is E. coli, but listeria, cyclospora, salmonella, and norovirus are also all pretty common. While with most other vegetables, you can get away with not fully washing them as they will be cooked, with Lettuce, you cannot do this. 

Cooked produce is the safest form of produce to eat, but with Lettuce, you don’t often cook it or heat it up at all, so you have to make sure to wash it properly. Lettuce, melons, and cucumbers are all common foods that cause foodborne illnesses. 

This is because many hands are touching these plants, and unfortunately, some aren’t very clean. While bugs can be a big deal, it is really the focus of removing bacteria that is important. 

If that isn’t enough reason for you to wash your Lettuce and other plants, washing your produce also removes:

  • Herbicides
  • Pesticides
  • Dirt

Even if you are the person that removes the first few outer leaves of Lettuce to stay safe, you have to think about cross-contamination and the fact that dirt and bugs can still easily get through the first layer of leaves. That means bacteria can as well, so a thorough washing is necessary. 

Are Lettuce Worms Dangerous to Ingest?

While bugs from Lettuce aren’t dangerous, worms can cause some problems. Lettuce does contain intestinal parasites. If not washed properly, about forty-five percent of all Lettuce contains some form of intestinal parasites. 

These worms might not cause problems for a while, but at some point, they can get big enough to cause blockages in the intestines. This can lead to things like malnutrition, problems in the brain, and even problems growing physically. 

These worms, known as ascaris worms, are resistant to many problems from their environment, and washing is one of the only ways to effectively get rid of them. There is no particular type of Lettuce that is more susceptible. 

Even if your produce says it is pre-washed, it is a good idea to give it another rinse to prevent any worms or parasites from using your body as a host. 

How Do You Wash Lettuce?

Washing lettuce
Now that you know the importance of washing Lettuce, you need to know how to wash your Lettuce the right way. You can’t just use soap and water and hope for the best. 

The important part is to take the time to wash every leaf. With Lettuces like romaine and bibb Lettuce, it is a little easier than iceberg, but it is no less important. 

After breaking apart all the leaves, soak them all in a big bowl of cool water. Make sure there is plenty of space to fit all the leaves and let them move around. If you don’t have a bowl big enough, you may have to wash your Lettuce in batches. 

You may also wash your Lettuce under running water, but this tends to use a lot more water, and you don’t ensure that all parts of the Lettuce get washed properly. 

Some people just leave it there, but it is better to gently rub your Lettuce. Focusing on the stems is important, as that is where most of the dirt will settle, but make sure that the rest of the leaf still gets attention, even on the bottom and back. 

After a few minutes, the Lettuce will float and most of the dirt will drift to the bottom. Make sure everything is fully settled before removing the Lettuce. 

If you have a salad spinner, you can place your Lettuce in that to help it dry faster. Otherwise, you can simply take your Lettuce out of the water and pat it dry with a paper towel or dish towel. 

If you feel like cold water isn’t enough, there are also specific produce washes out there to use. While you shouldn’t ever use them by themselves, they can work as a great accompaniment to make sure that your Lettuce is completely clean. 

What Happens if You Accidentally Eat a Worm in Fruit?

Unlike parasitic worms, worms that are often found in fruit are more similar to earthworms. These are not harmful to you, and will not be anything more than a little extra protein. Though you might get sick to your stomach from eating the food, this is likely all in your head and not an actual symptom. 


It is pretty normal to find bugs and other animals inside and around your fruits and vegetables. Even if they are pre-washed, or you bought them at the store, you are always likely to find bugs. 

While most of the time, there is no harm in eating a bug that’s in your Lettuce, there are other dangerous substances such as parasites and bacteria. This is why it is so important to wash your Lettuce. Otherwise, you may find yourself getting sick or eating a bit more protein than you expected. 

The best way to wash your Lettuce is to soak the leaves in a big bowl of water and let all the dirt and grime settle at the bottom before removing the leaves. This will ensure all parts of your Lettuce leaves are clean and safe to consume!