Fact check: Yes, little bugs may live in your strawberries and blueberries
Users on social media platforms began posting videos of what appeared to be insects crawling out of strawberries after a viral TikTok video claimed saltwater and white vinegar will bring out little bugs from the fruit.
“After nearly 25 years of living, TikTok taught me how to properly wash strawberries,” says the May 18 Facebook post, which has 125,000 shares. “They are FILLED with tiny bugs and tons of dirt.”
The post lists the ingredients needed for the wash, as well as photos of what came out of the strawberries after the soak.
Other users on social media were skeptical about the claim and posted, “Update: them big bugs ain’t coming out. They’re trolling. They just want you to wash your fruit.”
The controversy follows a popular TikTok trend that revealed little white maggots crawling out of strawberries after they were washed in warm saltwater for about 30 minutes.
The little creatures in the fruit are known as the spotted wing drosophilas, which lay eggs inside strawberries. They then hatch and crawl out after being washed in the warm saltwater solution.
The invasive fly arrived in the USA in 2008 and eventually spread nationwide.
Sriyanka Lahiri, an assistant professor and strawberry and small-crop entomologist at the University of Florida, told USA TODAY that the creature is mainly attracted to sweet and fermenting fruit, such as strawberries and blueberries.
“They’re so sneaky that they’re the only pest that can be transported to the grocery store,” Lahiri said. She said not every strawberry or blueberry will be affected, nor should people be too concerned about the creature.
She said female spotted wing drosophilas lay eggs inside perfect, ripe and undamaged fruit, “and that’s where you see the problem.”
“This species is able to make a very fine incision that can’t be seen with a naked eye and lays its eggs in there. When the picker gets the fruit, they can’t even see that there’s an egg because it’s deep in the fruit,” Lahiri said.
“That’s why it escapes detection, and it’s not possible to detect that a fruit has been infested,” she said.
There are no studies that have found spotted wing drosophilas, or other bugs in fruit, are harmful for human consumption. Lahiri said the bugs are just part of eating fruits, vegetables and anything else that grows out in fields.
“The reality is that most fruits, stored grains, they have some level of insect infestation that is impossible to get rid of,” she said.
Having a few pests is more favorable than a zero-tolerance policy, which would force growers to apply a large amount of insecticides, posing an even bigger problem for farmers.
It is TRUE that small bugs can come out of strawberries after washing them with saltwater, depending on how ripe and fresh the fruit is. Experts contacted by USA TODAY confirmed that spotted wing drosophilas can lay eggs inside berries; however, they said there is nothing to worry about and the fruits are safe for consumption.
USA TODAY: 'Bugs and maggots may crawl out of strawberries washed in saltwater. Stay calm, experts say.'