Strawberries are cancelled. That’s what I’ve determined after watching a viral TikTok trend where users are showing how to remove literal bugs from the fruit. Multiple TikTok videos this week have shown that submerging strawberries in saltwater for several minutes will draw out the bugs that apparently live inside them — the bugs you’ve been consuming all along if, like me, you’re used to giving your berries a simple rinse before eating them.
Perhaps the TikTok generation has more time for science now that we’re all living in a state of perpetual pandemic lockdown, but the findings here are absolutely horrifying. After multiple users tried this experiment, some found little bugs floating around in the water with their berries, while others noticed what looked like worms crawling around on them after removing the strawberries from the water.
At this point, the fact that we’ve all been consuming bugs shouldn’t even be surprising. This is 2020, after all, and nothing is sacred. “They’re lucky I like the flavour they add,” said one TikTokker.
So what are those wormlike bugs living inside your strawberries? The little worms are actually maggots from a fruit fly of East Asian origin known as the spotted wing drosophila (SWD), according to Cornell University’s Fruit Resources. These fruit flies first landed in New York in 2011 and have since then spread throughout most of the country. The SWD is most attracted to different kinds of berries and can lay eggs in fruit even before harvest.
SWD and other bugs, like thrips, mites, and aphids can find their way into all kinds of foods during harvesting and packaging, which is why they go largely unnoticed by the time they hit the grocery store produce section. The best way to manage the emergence of these bugs is by monitoring the fruits during harvesting, which might be harder to do on a mass scale of berry production.
But eating these bugs isn’t harmful. “Although the sight of translucent worms crawling out of a fresh strawberry fruit might not be appealing, there are no known ill effects of eating them,” Sriyanka Lahiri, a strawberry and small fruit crop entomologist and assistant professor at the University of Florida told Health. “In fact, if you accidentally consumed some maggots, all you did was get some extra animal protein in your salad or fruit shake.” Ah, yes, just a little protein.
In case we needed more things to be concerned about, bugs living in strawberries can now go on your list of reasons why 2020 is cancelled.