There is nothing worse than looking forward to a lovely salad and finding a bug in your lettuce. Fortunately, this is not the end of your salad. Most affected leaves can be removed and thrown away. Wash the good leaves and your salad is halfway there.
What Should I Do If I Find Bugs in The Lettuce?
If you find bugs in your lettuce, you will need to remove them, either by hand or by washing the plants. Any bugs that get into lettuce are not likely to affect the whole plant. Lettuces that are growing can be sprayed with Neem oil or a mixture of dish soap and water. Lettuces that are cut can be taken apart and the loose leaves are washed in water with a little vinegar. The parts of the lettuce that are not affected are edible.
We unpack what to do about the common bugs if they get into your lettuce.
Bugs That Eat Lettuce
Worms or caterpillars are often found on lettuce plants. Look for holes in the leaves and brown or green worms, which may be on the underside of the leaves.
The best way to avoid aphids on your lettuce plants when they are in the ground is to harvest leaves as often as possible. You will find tiny white bugs on the underside of the leaves.
3. Snails and slugs
Snails and slugs usually leave a trail that looks like silvery slime. Apart from the trail they leave, slugs and snails eat large holes in the lettuce leaves.
How to Get Rid of Bugs on Lettuce Plants
1. Getting rid of caterpillars
The most efficient and environmentally-friendly, but labour-intensive, way to get rid of caterpillars on your lettuces is to pick them off and get rid of them. You can also spray the plants, preferably with a natural pesticide.
2. Getting rid of aphids
If there are a lot of aphids, you can wash the leaves by hand, or spray them. Mix some dish soap in water and use that to wash the leaves, or use Neem oil. A natural way to try to get rid of aphids is to introduce ladybugs onto the plants, as they eat aphids.
3. Getting rid of snails and slugs
The best way to get rid of snails and slugs on your lettuce plants is to try to keep them off the plants in the first place. Remove as much organic matter from around the plants as possible, so they don’t have a natural habitat to visit.
You can also scatter snail bait or a preventative powder around the base of each plant. The best way to get rid of the snails and slugs when they are on the plants is to pick them off the lettuces by hand.
Bugs on Lettuce From the Store
Unfortunately, sometimes it happens that you get home from the store, only to find that there is a bug in your lettuce. Or more than one. This is why you should always wash lettuce leaves before eating them.
1. Finding worms in your lettuce
If you buy fresh lettuce from the store, the bug you are most likely to find will be a worm or caterpillar. Fortunately, most often there will only be one or two of them. You can still use the lettuce, but will need to get rid of the worm.
Separate all the leaves from the lettuce. You may need to break it apart to do this, depending on the variety. Remove any worms you find on the lettuce.
Remove any leaves that are badly damaged. Wash all the remaining leaves with water. You can either use a salad spinner or put them in a bowl of water, wash them and then dry them in a strainer.
When the leaves have all been washed, you should be able to break off any other damaged parts of them and put those in your organic waste. It may be necessary to cut the leaves.
2. Finding aphids on your lettuce
It would be highly unlikely that a store will stock lettuce that is infested with aphids, because the harvesting and selection process should have found them and chucked the lettuce out. However, things do get through and you may find at least some aphids on your lettuce.
In this case, you can soak the separated leaves in a mixture of a little dishwashing soap and water. Let the leaves soak for a few minutes, then remove them one-by-one, wiping them off with your fingers to get rid of any clinging bugs.
Put the leaves into plain water to rinse off any of the soap. You can also do this by putting them in a strainer and running clean water over them.
If you do eat an aphid or three, it will do you no harm, but you do want to avoid it if you can.
3. Finding slugs or snails in your lettuce
Even if lettuce plants are picked, inspected and graded, it is possible that a slug or snail may slip through. This is especially true of lettuces where the leaves are closely packed, like the Iceberg. These bugs are often very small and can be missed.
If you are preparing your store-bought lettuce and find a slug or snail in it, don’t panic. Firstly, remove the bug. (Hopefully, there’ll only be one.) Take the lettuce apart and inspect all the leaves.
If you see any other bugs, or any damaged leaves, throw them out. Look out for the tell-tale shine of the slug trail. You won’t really want to try to wash that off, so throw those leaves out too.
After this, wash the lettuce leaves thoroughly. You can do this in water, or add some vinegar to the water as you wash them. Rinse the leaves thoroughly in a salad spinner, or in a strainer, and run water over them. The remaining leaves will be good to eat.
Conclusion About What Should I Do If I Find Bugs on the Lettuce?
Bugs can find their way into a lettuce and make their way to your table. If you do find a bug, remove it or wash it off. Get rid of the affected leaves and you can rinse and eat the rest of the lettuce.
Frequently Asked Questions on What Should I Do If I Find Bugs On the Lettuce?
Do I have to throw away a lettuce with bugs in it?
Most bugs will only affect some of the lettuce leaves, so those can be thrown away and the other leaves eaten. You may need to throw away some of the plant, but not all of it.
Can I get rid of bugs in my lettuces naturally?
To get rid of aphids on your lettuce plants, you could introduce ladybugs, which will eat them. You will usually be able to pick caterpillars or worms, and snails or slugs, off the leaves by hand. Otherwise, wash the leaves with a mixture of dish soap and water, or Neem oil.