Are Tiny Bugs Hiding Inside Your Strawberries?

Clint Thompson Berries, North Carolina, Strawberry, Top Posts

Basket with fresh strawberries isolated on white background.

By Ashley Robinson

A few weeks ago, a viral TikTok video took the internet by storm, showing what appeared to be little worm-like bugs crawling out of fresh strawberries soaked in salt water. Since that video surfaced, many consumers have recreated the video showing similar results. Now, some consumers are panicking. Is this safe? Have we unknowingly been enjoying bugs in our strawberries? Should we stop eating strawberries all together?

Should You Be Concerned?

The short answer is no. To put it simply, this can happen. However, it is very unlikely.

But here’s the million dollar question, what is really happening in the viral TikTok phenomenon?

According to Hannah Burrack, an entomologist at North Carolina State University, the consumer was actually performing a technique that growers use to test for spotted wing drosophila (SWD), an invasive small fruit fly.

“A consumer posted a video of what is actually a recommended test for growers to determine whether or not they have possible concern with SWD infestation. This consumer did this with fruit she bought from the grocery store and she observed small larvae coming out of the fruit,” Burrack says. 

Burrack assures consumers that their fruit are safe to eat.

“It’s possible that consumers find small larvae emerging from their fruit when soaked in salt water. But it’s pretty unlikely given that all of our farmers are aware of the potential issues associated with SWD, they are actively managing them and they are sampling their fruit before they sell to consumers or wholesalers,” Burrack said.

If growers are monitoring for SWD, then why are consumers seeing larvae emerging from their fruit after being soaked in salt water?

Drosophila larvae look alike. But since growers and wholesalers inspect for SWD regularly and do their best to keep SWD out of our food supply, the larvae that consumers are seeing are most likely fruit flies that could have been buzzing around the grocery store or inside the consumer’s home.

“It’s very likely that the larvae they are seeing originated post-harvest, after the fruit left the farm, especially if they are tiny larvae.” Burrack says. “There are a whole bunch of drosophila flies that are naturally occurring in the US that can attack the fruit once it’s been harvested, unlike SWD which is invasive.” 

Is it Harmful To Eat These Bugs?

No. The idea of eating bugs may be unappealing, but if you’ve ever eaten fruit before you’ve more than likely eaten a bug at some point.

In addition, experts don’t recommend soaking your fruit in salt water. A regular rinse will do just fine.

Burrack also mentions that you should keep your berries in the fridge. Refrigerating your berries will allow them to last longer and will keep the berries protected from the fruit flies that are buzzing around your counter.