If you have bought aphid-infested veggies from the market, and some of them get onto your plate by accident, can you eat aphids? Will they cause any damage? Let’s find out.
Aphids are tiny, soft-bodied insects that love to suck on green leafy vegetables, including broccoli, kale, spinach, and more.
They can be hard to spot unless you look closely, and many people might accidentally swallow them with veggies.
So, are aphids safe to swallow? The answer is yes; aphids are safe to eat. However, it doesn’t mean you should chomp away on aphid-infested kale or spinach.
Always rinse your leafy greens thoroughly before consuming them. It’s just that eating one or two aphids won’t impact you much. Let’s learn more about it.
Are Aphids Edible?
Several insects are toxic or poisonous to the human body, but aphids aren’t. Aphids are edible insects. The FDA says that it is OK to have as many as 60 aphids (perhaps more) per 100 grams of food (about 1.5 cups).
You will be all right even if you swallow these insects, except for a few rare species (like the Taiwanese aphid species).
Entomophagy is a term for individuals who eat insects, and you would be surprised how common it is! However, these people usually consume insects much bigger than aphids. Aphids are so small that you won’t even be able to taste or chew them properly.
Can Aphids Harm You?
No, aphids cannot harm humans, even if you eat them, knowingly or unknowingly.
Aphids have sap-sucking needle-like mouthparts in place of teeth, which help them suck nutrients from plants.
Since they have no teeth, they cannot bite or sting humans. Even if they try to bite you, at best, you might get a small rash that will heal quickly.
Are Aphids Poisonous to Humans?
No, aphids aren’t poisonous to humans in any way. Plant sap is their primary source of food and nutrients, and they can move around from one plant to another.
However, they are not vectors for any known human diseases. So don’t worry if you find out that you have accidentally swallowed one or two of them.
Do Aphids Carry Any Diseases?
Aphids may carry plant diseases. However, these diseases don’t impact humans.
Moreover, it is unlikely that you will get indigestion if you ever consume some aphids. These bugs are soft-bodied; they don’t have exoskeletons.
They cannot survive the pressure when you swallow them with your veggies. Moreover, whatever is left of them gets easily digested by your stomach fluids.
Can You Eat Leafy Greens Infested With Aphids?
Yes, you can eat leafy greens or herbs with an aphid infestation. We don’t recommend it, though!
It is better if you rinsed off the veggies after picking them from the garden to avoid eating these bugs. While aphids do not affect the flavor of the herbs, they do suck out the nutrients.
So what you are getting is probably not as good as you would want it to be. Moreover, the herbs and veggies will look a little dull or yellowish.
Let’s talk more about how to rinse the veggies to get the aphids off of them, in case you really want to have some of them.
How To Rinse Herbs or Veggies To Remove Aphids?
Below are some tips to help remove aphids from your leafy greens.
Check the veggies before purchasing.
Prevention is better than cure! Whether you pick them from the garden or buy them from the market, check thoroughly, and if the plant is gone, let it be.
Here’s how you can check them for aphid infestation:
- Take a thorough look at the plants and leaves.
- If you notice dark spots or white crooks, aphids are likely going to be there.
- If you notice any yellow spots on the leaves, it might have had aphids.
Once you notice the above signs, flip the leaves and look at the undersides. Also, aphids tend to leave honeydew on leaves, so that’s also a telltale sign.
Wash the leaves thoroughly
So, despite all measures, you find that you have, in fact, bought aphid-infested veggies. What shall you do now?
All you need to do is clear or rinse them off with water. Most aphids wash away when put under a strong stream of cold water.
Do not use soapy water to wash the leaves since soap can cause irritation in your stomach.
If you see aphids sticking to the veggies even after the first wash, put them under a high-pressure stream or a water jet.
Wipe the veggies clean
Even after cleaning the leaves with water, aphids may still be lingering under the leaves. So, what should you do?
Nothing, simply wipe your veggie leaves with a soft cloth or sponge. If any garden aphids have escaped the high-pressure water, your sponge will still finish the job.
Give them a good ice bath.
An aphid infestation leaves garden vegetables dull, so we recommend you soak them in a bowl full of ice or ice water.
Please leave them in the bowl for 20 minutes before taking them out. It will firm up the leafy greens, restore their original green color, and kill off any remaining aphids.
Adult aphids cannot survive cold for a long time.
Allow them to dry
Once you get them out of the bowl, pat your vegetables dry. The aphids who manage to survive all the above stages would surely quit at this final stage.
Allow the leafy greens to dry for at least 15 minutes or more before cooking them if you need an aphid-free meal.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can aphids live in your hair?
No, aphids cannot live in your hair since they feed on the sap of the plants. They need the nutrition from the plants to survive. They would die in a few days if they had to live in your hair!
Even if you think some aphids have gotten into your hair, just use a good shampoo and stand under a shower. That should remove them.
What damage do aphids cause?
Aphids are sap-sucking insects that can seriously damage or destroy the plant they infest. They extract all the nutrition from the plant, leaving it yellow and lifeless.
In your garden, you can protect your plants by releasing natural enemies of aphids such as ladybird beetles or lady beetle larvae.
You can buy these beneficial insects from a nearby garden center.
Can you eat basil with aphids?
Yes, you can eat basil with aphids. Aphids don’t carry human diseases, are too small to bite or sting, and are soft-bodied, so they cannot cause any harm to your stomach. Moreover, you can always remove them with a good wash and keep the basil leaves in ice water.
Is it OK to eat lettuce with bugs?
Yes, it is OK to eat lettuce with the bug since it won’t cause any harm to your body. They don’t cause any allergies or diseases, and even the FDA says it’s OK to eat 1-2 once in a while.
However, it would be best if you rinsed them off before cooking your meal to keep the veggies firm and healthy.
You can eat aphids if they get on your plate with your veggies. They don’t cause any harm to humans.
Even so, it is better to check your leafy greens for aphids before buying, and always wash and rinse properly before you eat.
Over the years, our readers have sent us several emails on this topic. Please go through them below.
Letter 1 – Aphids
Location: Langley, BC Canada
August 27, 2011 11:22 am
Please help with insect id (I’ve been researching for hours to no avail). A colony of these (see pics.) was discovered on the roof edge of our metal shed; they are tiny, so at first glance looked like aphids, but moved along rather quickly in a row, ant-like to and fro. They departed from one corner of the roof and at the next corner turned around and marched right back; if they carried anything it wasn’t noticeable. There were wingless nymphs of at least a couple of different sizes; the corner under the roof that they returned to had some spider web-like threading & I guessed was their home (I didn’t find an opportunistic spider in ambush, but of course there could’ve been one).
The shed is shouldered by a camellia, which was treated for scale last year & early this year, and a laburnum whose foliage on this year’s new shoots came out scrawny & misshapen like it was affected by galls (no success ID-ing that so far).
The winged insect I got off the laburnum, it was a great model: didn’t want to move even if prodded. Its body, not counting the legs, is 1/8”. The wingless youngin’ kept on running (this one I got off a chair that’s under the laburnum: the nymphs seem to like taking a walk on inorganic surfaces).
I sure hope you can help me ID & determine what they eat.
We feel strongly that both the winged individual and the individual without wings are Aphids. The curiosity for us is why thy have decided to wander along the edge of the shed roof. Perhaps their plant host has proven to be unlivable for some reason and they have fled in search of a new food host. We cannot determine the species of Aphid, and that might provide some clue as to this unusual behavior. Higher resolution photos would be a big help toward species identification.
Letter 2 – Aphids
Bugs on my Male Cotttonwood???
Location: Denver, CO
April 25, 2012 8:32 pm
I noticed these bugs in groups on my Male Cottonwood and have no clue what they are, perhaps you can help. If i need to apply pesticide before they kill my tree, i’ll need to act quick.
Signature: Cottonwood guy
Dear Cottonwood guy,
These are Aphids and we believe they might be in the genus Pterocomma based on some of the photos posted to BugGuide. There are only two species and the photos on the species pages do not resemble your Aphids. Only the photos on the more generic page look like your Aphids, however, one of the species, Pterocomma bicolor, is commonly called the Reddish Brown Willow Bark Aphid on bugGuide. Willow and Cottonwood are related and many insects that feed on one will accept the other as food as well. Also though the one photo identified on BugGuide as Pterocomma bicolor does not look like your Aphids, the binomial name indicates two colors and that is consistent with the black and orange coloration of your specimens. The winged Aphids are sexually reproductive adults that will mate. Aphids are capable of parthenogenic reproduction and a female can create genetic clones of herself without a mate, which is why Aphids are able to reproduce so quickly. We do not offer extermination advice, but in an effort to prevent you from spraying harmful pesticides that may kill beneficial insects as well as the Aphids, we would urge you to spray the colony with soapy water, an effective means of eradication that does not harm the environment as much as pesticides will.
Letter 3 – Aphids
Subject: Red and yellow bugs
Location: Southwestern Ohio
June 11, 2013 3:09 pm
I found the little yellow and red bugs on the underside of the leaves on my tulip trees. I just noticed them today. Most of the leaves are covered in these little suckers. I live in southwestern Ohio.
You really do have little suckers. These are Aphids and they have sucking mouthparts that they use to suck the juices from plants. Spraying the plants with soapy water is a natural way to help control their numbers.
Letter 4 – Aphids
December 23, 2013 8:29 am
what is this lil bug
These are Aphids.
Letter 5 – Aphids and eco-friendly control methods
Subject: From my garden in Southern California
Location: Upland, California
April 15, 2014 10:13 pm
I just found these critters on my kale in the garden! I have sprayed horticultural oil once a week for the last couple of weeks but may not have been as diligent in the kale (I am ashamed to admit now!). I am thinking these may be aphids but the color is throwing me off a bit. I guess it could be because they are attacking my green kale plants?
Thanks in advance for your reply!
Wondering in SoCal
Signature: Wondering in SoCal
Dear Wondering in SoCal,
You are correct that these are Aphids. By the looks of the young ones, they are reproducing. You can try hitting them with the strong jet from a hose. Kale is a sturdy plant that can take the water pressure.
Thank you! I have made a concoction of tomato leaves and dawn dish detergent to spray, do you think I should use that? I will also use the hose!
That might work. We have heard of an organic remedy that involves soaking some cigarette butts in water as the nicotine is effective in controlling some plant pests that suck fluids, like Aphids.
Yea I saw that one too but I would have to touch cigarette butts and those are as disgusting as the aphids! 🙂
Letter 6 – Aphids
Subject: strange bug
Location: Colorado Springs
November 5, 2014 1:21 pm
What are these?
Signature: Shaun Hodges
These are Aphids, a bane recognized by most gardeners.