Finding bugs in your lettuce isn’t a pleasant sight. They could put you off from making that delicious bowl of salad you had in mind. It gets even worse when you realize that you have chopped the bug with the lettuce.
Finding bugs in your greens is quite common, so you’re not the only one who’s always faced with these creeping things. The bugs infest and damage vegetables with holes and make them unattractive.
Why and how do bugs find their way into lettuce? Are these bugs harmful? How can you remove and prevent these bugs from invading your greens?
Why are there bugs in your lettuce?
Bugs find their way into every type of lettuce because they grow on the soil, which is home to some of these bugs. It is almost inevitable to not find bugs in your greens. These bugs live on and feed off the greens, impacting their appearance.
Romaine lettuce is a common variety of lettuce. This type grows open and is more likely to get infested with bugs. The lettuce grows open from the ground and closes up around the stalk.
The period when it was open is enough time for bugs to creep, penetrate the head, and camouflage with the leaves.
Are bugs in lettuce harmful?
Bugs in lettuce aren’t harmful to both the plants and your body. If you accidentally ingest lettuce with bugs, it is not a cause for alarm. Bugs like aphids are soft-bodied organisms that your digestive system can easily break down alongside the food you ate.
Moreover, you cannot get sick from eating aphids. The diseases aphids carry can only affect plants. The worst case is that you could get irritated at the thought of bugs in your mouth, but it’ll never lead to an illness.
In addition, you can prevent eating lettuce with bugs if you wash them properly.
What type of bugs can you find in lettuce?
Common lettuce bugs include:
These insects affect more plants than lettuce. They are small and camouflaged like the leaves, which makes it quite difficult to identify them. Aphids pierce the plants and suck the fluids in the greens.
When aphids suck the fluids off young lettuce, the leaves become curled and there are visible signs of stunted growth. In addition, they could be quite difficult to eradicate because of how fast they breed.
Beetles – flea and darkling beetles can damage lettuce. They live in the soil and are quite difficult to get rid of. Beetles do not leave even during winter, so they come back to attack your lettuce in the next growing season.
Moreover, beetles may not successfully destroy a plant, but a major infestation will spread viral plant diseases and reduce your harvest.
Caterpillars are dangerous. They devour lettuce badly and reduce its chance of survival. Unlike some other lettuce pests, caterpillars are easy to spot.
However, the cabbage worm, the most common caterpillar that plagues lettuce, camouflages with the leaves and could be quite difficult to spot. When caterpillars invade lettuce, they leave a powdery green or brown substance – their excrement – and holes.
Other caterpillars that infest lettuce include cutworms, which are the larvae of moths, and cabbage loopers, which are offsprings of the cabbage looper moth.
Leafminers do not only eat lettuce. They burrow holes in the leaves and lay eggs in the holes. These eggs mature into maggots.
When thrips invade your lettuce farm, they do a lot of damage. They change the leaves and make them unattractive. Thrips cause tissue necrosis, downward leaf curling, and bronzing on leaves.
Both adult and young crickets feed on lettuce. The young crickets (the nymphs) eat up the young lettuce seedlings, while the adult crickets eat the grown plant. Although they cannot impart your health, a massive invasion of these bugs can affect your total yield.
Additionally, grasshoppers have a similar effect on lettuce.
How to remove bugs in lettuce
- If the bugs aren’t a lot, you can handpick them from the leaves
- If they are a lot, swish the leaves in cold water to remove the bugs
- For unharvested lettuce, spray the bush with a water hose. The pressure from the water will make the bugs come off. But you’ll have to examine the leaves carefully again for any bug that didn’t come off
- Use commercial or organic pesticides to remove bugs from lettuce. But commercial pesticides work more effectively than organic pesticides. The latter is only safer to use than the former
- Try homemade remedies like insecticidal soap (oil + dish soap) and a mixture of essential oils (like peppermint oil, rosemary oil, and thyme oil) and water
- Another option is to lightly dust the lettuce with diatomaceous earth
How can you store lettuce?
If you have harvested more lettuce than you need or harvested them to keep them away from bugs, you should refrigerate or freeze the greens to keep them fresh and crisp.
Tips to prevent and control lettuce bugs
- Keep predators of aphids around. Grow plants like sunflowers and buckwheat that will attract parasitic wasps, and fennel to attract ladybugs and praying mantids
- Grow plants with strong odors like mint, basil, and chives
- Do not throw bugs from lettuce back on the grass
- Also, keep lettuce watered and well-nourished with organic fertilizers
- Keep the environment and garden free of weeds
- In addition, always inspect your garden and remove any damaged or diseased plants before it spreads
- Make natural soaps and sprays that will chase the pests
- Keep unnecessary dirt away. Get rid of decaying vegetables and plants and rotting wood
- Harvesting the lettuce early can also help
- Most importantly, buy and plant healthy lettuce seeds. When healthy plants grow, the impact of pest invasion is minimal
Do lettuce bugs get into sealed packages?
You may find lettuce bugs in a sealed pack. Some pests chew into the bags or plastic bags that hold the greens and infest them.
Can you find bugs in organic lettuce?
Yes, you can. Whether the lettuce was grown organically or not, finding bugs in greens is commonplace. Moreover, organically grown lettuce is more likely to have bugs because chemical pesticides weren’t used on them.
Can you eat worms in lettuce?
No, you can’t. If your greens are infested with worms or maggots, throw them out. Eating greens with worms in them can lead to food poisoning.
Can you eat lettuce with small holes on it?
Yes, you can. When you find holes in your lettuce, cut off the damaged part and eat the rest.
Bugs in lettuce are some kind of nuisance. While they make the greens unattractive to chop and eat, they are the real salad spoilers. However, they aren’t harmful to the body.
But if you can’t stand the sights of bugs and the holes they leave in lettuce, you’ll have to take extra steps. Keep the greens well-watered and well-fed. Also, harvesting them on time can help keep the bugs away.
Thanks for reading.
Visit Cheffist to read more related articles on food pests, storage, and preservation.