Our very thoughtful neighbor up the road has been saving blackberries for me from her bushes. We spent a lot of time harvesting wild blackberries around our property this year, but the fruits were so tiny and sour compared to her thornless variety.
When I first saw them, I couldn’t believe how humongous her blackberries were! They’re easily four times the size of the largest wild blackberries I’ve foraged.
I’m excited to have worked out a plant trade with her later this fall, some of my raspberries for some of her blackberries.
Both plants send off baby plants from the main stem, which are easy enough to dig up and transplant elsewhere, so trading will help us thin our beds as well as build our garden variety.
I’ve learned something from her blackberries that I never noticed with wild ones. Blackberries have worms. Teeny, tiny, white worms, as well as other bugs that may be feasting inside.
They burrow deep into the center of the berry, where you’d never see them unless you cut the berry in half or you just happen to see one sticking its ugly head out.
What Are Blackberry Worms?
As much as you might be horrified to admit it, blackberry worms are actually incredibly common. Almost all fresh blackberries have maggots in them, in fact.
Most of the time, these worms are the larvae of fruit flies, Drosophila suzukii, a.k.a spotted wing drosophila. Fortunately, these insects are safe to eat (besides being disgusting).
These fruit flies can be found just about anywhere (in strawberries, raspberries, etc.) so very few blackberry-growers don’t have to deal with them. They are more common after mild, warm winters, as it makes it easier for the larvae and flies to overwinter.
Here’s such a worm on a raspberry:
Spotted wing drosophila was first found in Hawaii several years ago, and introduced to California in 2008. Now, it is found just about all over the country.
These bugs will feed off the inside of the fruit, giving it a brownish appearance, and possibly a rotten smell.
Blackberries aren’t the only plants that are at risk of worm-infestation either. In fact, these worms can be found in all kinds of fruit-bearing plants, including cherry trees and raspberry bushes. Even huckleberries can host these flies, as can apples, nectarines, pears, peaches, grapes, plums, strawberries, and more.
Closely related to the vinegar fly, the same kind of fruit fly that hangs out in your kitchen, this fly is more ruthless.
The female fruit flies that eventually produce blackberry worms attack fruit in the early ripening process, inserting their larvae into fruit by piercing each berry with a needle-like ovipositor. Each blackberry can contain up to ten eggs, with the eggs hatching in about one day.
The eggs are then inserted just under the skin of the fruit…
Once the fruit breaks down, the worm will emerge and fall into the soil, forming a pupa and eventually becoming an adult fly.
They are extremely hated by commercial growers, as they can kill all kinds of soft-skinned fruits. However, if you’re picking your own berries, you don’t have as much to worry about. Although they are admittedly disgusting, they won’t make you sick. Chances are, you won’t even notice they’re there.
How to Prevent Blackberry Worms
Harvest Fruit Early
One of the easiest ways to prevent having to deal with them is to harvest your fruits early, before they get overripe. Put them in the refrigerator as soon as you do, as this will kill the worms.
Know the Signs When Harvesting
Although it’s often impossible to determine whether your berries have been infested, you can sometimes get a good handle on whether there are worms or other bugs hanging around by taking a close look at the berries.
Often, blackberries that are infected with the larvae will have a punctured area and will release some juice during handling (no matter how careful you are).
Sometimes, the stem part of the berry will soften earlier and you can actually see the larvae in the top of the berry.
Use Vinegar Traps
Some growers experience limited success when using vinegar traps to collect and kill flies in the berry patch. Although you might not get all of the worms out, it can certainly help cut down on their populations.
Try Fruit Traps
Consider hanging some plastic bags near your plants. Punch some small holes into them and add some leftover fruit, like banana peels. This should attract the flies and trap them inside so they don’t go after your berry bushes.
You can also add some unscented liquid soap (a few drops will do) to help the flies drown if you use a liquid solution, like vinegar or white wine.
There are various pesticides you can use to prevent blackberry worms, but it’s a good idea to check in with your local agricultural extension before using these on your plants.
Make sure the one you select is safe for use on food crops and only use pesticides as a last resort. There is a high risk of insecticide resistance with these plants.
There are some sprays that are approved for organic use, too, such as Spinosad. Consider these if you’re trying to stay organic.
Tips for Getting Worms Out of Blackberries
Some people recommend merely rinsing blackberries in order to get them clean. Unfortunately, while this does remove dirt, it doesn’t really do anything at all when it comes to removing blackberry worms.
You’ll need to soak the berries in cool water and add a bit of apple cider vinegar. This will help remove dirt and pesticides, if any were used, along with the worms.
Once the berries are in the bowl, use your hands to gently swish the berries around. You’ll likely see worms floating to the top. Drain them once, then soak them again before you dry the berries. With any luck, this will take care of your blackberry worm problem entirely.
Chill Your Berries
As soon as you harvest, chill your berries. This can help kill flies or prevent the formation of larvae, if the fly’s eggs have only recently been laid. Keep the fruit at 35 degrees F (1 degree C) for around 96 hours (4 days), and you should be able to get rid of these pests.
Use a Fine Mesh Filter
If you plan on using your blackberries for recipes like jam, you may want to use a fine mesh to filter the finished product before you do it. This will gather up all the larvae before they make their way into the jam.
You can also make a puree or juice out of your blackberries, ideally using a juicer. The augur should keep the larvae behind.
Freeze the Berries
If you don’t need to use the berries right away – and don’t mind using frozen berries for your recipes – you might want to try freezing them. This will drive most large worms to the surface of the berry. You Can then rinse or brush off the worms before you fully thaw the rest of the berries.
Easy Way to Get Worms Out of Blackberries: Ice Water and Salt!
Of course, once you know they’re there you’re inclined to want to cut every single berry into several pieces, just to make sure there isn’t a worm. But let’s be honest here. Who has the time for that?
I’ve found a much better solution. And although I can’t guarantee you’ll get every single tiny worm out, you’ll feel much better about eating your berries once you’ve successfully removed a few.
It’s pretty much the same method that you would use to remove worms from cabbage or broccoli.
Fill a sink or large bowl full of ice water, and add about 2 Tbsp to 1/4 c. salt. Dump the fresh blackberries in, and allow them to sit for about 10 minutes.
I like to gently swish them around to help loosen any die-hard worms. Sometimes they will die, but stay clung to the berry. What you should see after several minutes of soaking is that the worms are floating to the surface of the water, or just below the surface.
If you don’t see any worms, either there weren’t any to begin with or you didn’t use enough salt.
When you’re satisfied that you’ve gotten all the worms possible, gently rinse the berries in cold running water. You want to be sure not to squish them so that you don’t lose much of their juices.
Then drain and use right away, or freeze for future use. I’ve been filling a freezer bag until I have enough to make a good amount of blackberry jelly. I think I’d prefer the jelly to the jam, to avoid the seeds.
At the very least, put them in the fridge until you’re ready to consume…
Anyways, that’s how easy it is to get worms out of blackberries! Aren’t you glad you don’t have to throw them all away?!
Again, blackberry worms aren’t harmful, but there’s definitely an “ick” factor involved. If you’ve tried all the steps above and are still feeling squeamish, there’s no shame in feeding the berries to your pigs or chickens (or tossing them in the compost pile).
I Found Worms in Store-bought Blackberries. Is That Normal?
Yes, that’s fine. A little extra meat won’t hurt you! Just kidding… 🙂
Simply use the soak solutions above to get rid of them, and enjoy your berries!
Have you ever found a worm in your blackberries? Do you have a different method of dealing with them?
A city girl learning to homestead on an acre of land in the country. Wife and homeschooling mother of four. Enjoying life, and everything that has to do with self sufficient living.
146 thoughts on “How To Get Worms Out Of Blackberries”
I’ve never seen (I haven’t been looking for) any little white worms in my beloved blackberries, but now that I know about them, I think it’s ruined blackberries for me forever : (
Picking blackberries in the summertime and eating them and making Blackberry Pie has been a summertime tradition in my family since I was a little girl. I first noticed the worms coming out of the blackberries last summer and immediately stopped eating and picking them. Needless to say, those silly little worms have officially ruined my favorite summertime activity.
I saw them today for the first time because I’d carried them in a sealed jar and they came out. I was just disgusted, but I’m glad to know they don’t cause parasites!
My sentiments exactly. 😟
I agree with you. I was having them every day on my salad and as snacks. Was being the operative work here. Not anymore.
The big, soft berries taste the best and are most like to have worms. I know they’re there but eat them anyway. You can’t taste them.
If you grow your own berry bushes, spray with BT after flower petals drop. Bacillus Thuringiensis an organic product that kills worm in fruit.
I’ve got a mulberry tree. The problem is that I want wine berries, and “worms” (fruitfly maggots)generate a chemical that will push your fermentation to vinegar.
Ok I’ll try that
Well as the article says, you can pick them earlier or chill or freeze them. The picking early will eliminate any chance of the worms while the chilling/ freezing will kill them. I don’t know how the latter will effect the wine, but it can help.
my biggest concern is that i am making blackberry cordial – it has to sit in a jar with sugar, so any missed worms will grow bigger and eventually become fruit flies (i’ve got a batch i’ve just had to throw out bc of the concentration of larvae in there). hoping that water & lemon juice works bc i’m worried that salt would affect the flavor. it seems fine to me if you miss a few when you’re just going to cook the berries in the oven for pie or desserts, but my nalivka needs to sit around while the fermentation process happens, and while on the one hand it makes sense that the alcohol would eventually kill off the larvae, they may turn into flies *before* that happens. has anyone else had success with getting berries fully out of worms when you make cordial or liquers? what did you use?
Nope, but I’ve lost mulberries to vinegar.
What about soaking them in cold vinegar water?
Try freezing them first before making them sit in the syrup for the wine.
I used to be fairly squeamish about bugs in my food (my mother is very OCD and dirt and bugs were the devil as I grew up). Since moving out and “running my own kitchen” i’m much happier finding a live caterpillar in my broccoli or some larvae in my berries because to me it means the food I’m eating is healthy and obviously free from nasty chemicals. I do however try to remove the ones I find, if they’re still alive I toss them back outside 🙂
I’m just heading out with my 12 year old and some empty milk jugs to collect this evening’s dessert.
As a PS… and to the lady who said that she’d made Jelly and could see the lava in them … I think that I have a solution for you!
I’ve just made my apple and blackberry jelly and now about the do the Jam.
I too was still worried about the lava floating about … (even though I only saw a few … but enough!) so I decided that as I poured them into the hot jars with my funnel I’d add a sieve!
The first sieve (a flour one) was too fine, (jam was cooling and going through so slow that it was setting!!), so I used my standard metal four sieve with a marginally larger gap and then poured a bit… got the metal spoon and gently pushed the slight jelly pulp through but not the last of the left over seeds nor the lava!
If I were you I’d put all the jelly back in the pot warm it up and then pour it back into the jars using this method… ! It’s worked for me! 😀 Hope this helps! 🙂
Next time I’ll wash the berries (although many was squishy one’s this time!) and pick earlier too! 🙂 Thank you for a great thread & site!
Instead of cooking and then straining, you can either smush the berries raw, or put then in a food processor that doesn’t break the seeds, then sift and cook like normal. This way you will have a ton of uncooked good seeds to use, sell, or sprinkly in a nature trail out in the woods somewhere that people do not mow. I pick wild dewberries here in austin tx. They get a lot if worms, so i soak them in a sifter that is floating in water for 30 min, then spin the sifter and all of the worms sink to the bottom of the water under the sifter. This method works very well and i get rid of all worms with just one soak and spin. Anyway, i blend my fresh berries after, then sift out the seeds so i can spread them back in the woods where i picked them along the edges facing the water(a stream). Otherwise i would be depleting the forest of berries and they would eventually stop growing very few would grow. Sustainable foraging.
What type of sifter?
I would like to thank all the Posters for their comments, some of which made me smile!
I discovered the worms when picking wold berries with my daughter 10 years ago, and I have only just started picking the BlackBerry again this year. My husband and I picked 2kg (he was eating some straight from the bush) mine were going straight to container! We put them into the fridge for a couple of days and when the lid was removed the worms had crawled out and we’re not moving. I then proceeded with the salt and vinegar bath rinsed thoroughly and left to drain in a colendar. I am going to be making a pie and some jam later. If any have survived my cleaning process, then they deserve to be eaten. Bon A petite! ?
The worst thing about eating my blackberries off the vine is I hear the little worms screaming.
Not a problem……
I just soaked mine in regular tap water for two hours or so. Wormies were dead. I did do two rinses/dips. I placed the berries in a strainer/wire basket from the dollar store then put the basket in a larger mixing bowl in the sink. Filled the bowl all the way to the top with COLD water and VERY gently agitated the basket via the handle. sort of like a washing machine. (Very gently) got a good amount of unwanted additives out of the berries and only lost a few berries and hardly any juice.
Thank you so much for the suggestions. I tried the salt water in cold cold water and found just a few worms so I went ahead and added the starch to the berries. Then I let the mixture set for a little while. I did assume there would likely be more worms and sure enough there were. I tried to pick out as many as I could but there were so many. I decided that it was impossible to get them all. Some of them were so small you almost can’t see them. I figure that if you want berry pie you have to be willing to eat the worms. I asked my husband if he would be willing to eat it and he said “yes. It was no big deal”. I am glad he still wants to eat it as it would be a shame to toss everything out. However, I don’t know if I will eat it or ever want to eat berries again. I agree that they will not harm you and that we eat a lot of gross stuff without knowing, but is it still not enjoyable when you know you are eating worms/maggots/fly larvae. One more thing I found interesting is that when I picked out the tiny worms I placed them in really salty water and they are still alive after about 2 hours. They do not die easily.
I agree. I have to really try hard to push the thought of eating worms out of my head when we’re foraging, lol!
Captain Jack’s dead bug brew
Is there a method to PREVENT worms please
I think the only way to prevent the little flies from laying eggs on the berries is to put a fine mesh screen/netting over them, if you don’t want to spray them.
Captain Jack’s Dead Bug Spray, gets rid of them in our 175 foot row.
At what point in the life of the berry, do you spray them.
I have some of that spray, but have been reluctant to use it.
Now my blackberries are just staring to ripen, (about 20% are turning black). Is it too late to spra
Worms…yes please. If your not going to eat those worms, slide em onto my plate please.
what happens if you ate a raspberry with a frozen tapeworm in it
if you start to loose crazy weight for no apparent reason…. 😀
They are not tape worms. They are the larvae from the fruit fly and will not harm you. We have all probably eaten them many times without knowing it.
tapeworms are only found in meat like beef or pork, Tapeworms are killed by heat, that is why they tell you to cook pork completely. these tiny worms are larvae of tiny flies, and although the thought of eating these little buggers is disgusting, they won’t hurt anyone. salt water soak for 10 minutes will do it, then rinse well in a colander. I think freezing will kill any leftovers.
I have the same problem. Love Blackberries, hate the little worms. Always wash well with water and then freeze but you never know that you got them all. When I taste the pie I usually forget they are there, but have wasted countless amounts of fruit if the ‘disgust’ factor gets too much.
Anyway, next year I have a cunning new method I want to try. I noticed this when picking my Blackcurrants this year. They didn’t all ripen at once so I had to keep going back and picking them on the plant which was a bit of a pain. In the end I opted to strip the branches bare of both ripe and non-ripe fruit. I then left the non-ripe fruit to ripen off the plant on the kitchen windowledge.
With blackberries, I have a hunch that the maggots will not be as numerous in the non-ripe fruit because the berries are hard and red and the gaps between the nodules is tightly held together. I am going to try to pick them at this stage and then ripen off the plant in plastic bags where the flies can’t get at them. It’s a bit of an experiment but if I get to eat more berries it will be worthwhile.
Anyone else tried this method before?
I have read lots of comments on the issue of worms or should I dare say maggots in berrys, but I have to laugh at your silly fears about possibly eating a grub, they eat them by choice in many countries and they do them no harm so stop being soft, if you think of it this way you’ll not die a horrible death or even get ill so stop moaning and with today’s obsession with cleanliness kids are becoming less immune to the slightest germ that’s why so many kids get sick, so here’s the thing I’m not saying put them in danger but let them paddle in a stream,collect frog spawn,climb a tree,play in dirt,and eat some berrys straight of a bush you might just be doing them a favour,p,s i let my kids do all of the above plus my youngest was forever chomping on soil, sucking water out of puddles in our back garden, eating dead flys of the windowsill and he left school having achieved record attendance and my other son only missed a few days due to having tonsils out
stop worrying ¡
I think the thing that makes me laugh is people that are so freaked out at eating a worm but have no problem eating meats like ground beef that comes from multiple cows and always has poop in it! A certain amount is allowed by the FDA. And not just the poop factor but why gross to eat a tiny worm but a big piece of flesh or a chicken leg or chicken egg (chicken’s menstrual cycle) is normal! lol
I’m grossed out by the worms as I eat none of the above! Just trying the ice water and salt right now so will see how it works! Son is making a blackberry liqueur with vodka.
People’s tastes and what’s considered gross definitely varies across states, communities, and cultures. But I’m in the “Prefer few to no worms in my berries” camp. 🙂 Also, chickens do not menstruate. Eggs are not “menstrual cycle” they’re just unfertilized eggs.
You have a point. I mean look at all the people who buy peanut butter off the shelf in the store; and yet several years back they had it on the news that the FDA allows a certain amount of rat droppings, yep you heard me right rat poop, in peanut butter.
Wow!! How did he make the liqueur? Would you mind sharing?
While your advice is sound, your lack of proper punctuation is makes me what to pelt you with little worms! 😉
Next time you want to be critical of someone else’s grammar, you might want to read your own comment a little closer for spelling.
Ha, ha….I was thinking the same thing.
Lol right? Improper punctuation and misused words in a single sentence casting stones. At least they used ‘your’ properly; perhaps they thought “I know which your to use AND used a comma, now I correct you for is no use proper punctuation bad”
Not every body had good schools or teachers, some had to leave school to earn money for their parents, Most of us are polite.
Love your post!????
I got to this post from your canning raspberries post. I’ll likely try this idea soon to see if my fruit has worms. Something to consider: insects and worms are a large source of protein and part of meals for people in other countries. A woman I met from Africa had a hard time eating our “western food”. When she visits family in Africa, it takes her body as long to adapt to the food she grew up on. She said she misses certain bug and larvae harvest seasons and their fresh taste. Every place has it’s unique diet and understanding of food. I wouldn’t want to loose my raspberry plants to bugs though. Happy worm removal :).
About 2years ago i bought some chicken poop to use as a side dressing for my garden plants. I used an ice cream bucket for my receptacle. When I finished that day I forgot the bucket in the garden with about 2 cups of the manure left in the bucket. I came out to my garden the next day and rain was mixed into my manure. I knew the mixture might be HOT so I just ignored it. A couple days later, the mixture started frothing. I just left it alone. I began to notice that the moths and flies Really loved the mixture. Then a funny thing happened. The moths and flies and other noxious critters dove into the mixture got caught in the slurry and could not get out. By this time the slurry was thick still boiling and stinking. I left my bucket out all summer. By the end of the summer I had a 4 to 6 inch slurry of dead flies and large and small moths of all kinds. That year our county had an infestation of moths and many gardeners lost their produce. I had a very clean garden. This may work on the flies. I had flies on my fruit this year. I did not use the chicken poop this year. Yes I will use it next year worth a try!
What you made is called manure “tea”. Very good for the garden. Funny that the bugs liked it! Great tip!
Carol, did you use the bucket o poo the next year? Did it work?
I picked blackberries for jam (knowing there were worms) and planned to do a salt water soak. It was late in the evening, so I decided to put the berries in big mixing bowls with lids and refrigerate them until I was ready to make jam. This was a Sunday, and I opened the bowls up Tues morning…and all the worms had crawled out and died! I just rinsed my berries and no more worms!
Whatever works, lol!!
Before I knew about the worm problem, I had frozen the blackberries. Is there anything I can do now?
They might have tried to crawl out of the blackberries as they froze. Just examine the berries well and use a toothpick or something to pick out any worms you find frozen to the berries.
when I froze mine, the little white worms were right on top of the berries…some tried to excape the side of the cookie sheet, but very visible and easy to pluck off..
I did the same thing I was going to make a pie and some of my vodka infused with Blackberry liqueur.
I had to wait three days and found the container with this little guys trying to escape. Rinsed them off and voila better berries.
I just did not soak them well enough before I put them in the refer.
I think this tow shot method will by my new method.
I have always enjoyed fresh berries from the market. Who doesn’t.
I started picking my own wild blackberries that are growing wild behind my house not too long ago. They’re great. I actually like placing some salty on them and eating them that way once rinsed.
I then started to notice little white worms in some of them and figured out they are the larva of fruit flies. I did some research on this and also this is how I found this blog/site.
We humans have been hunter/gathers for 2.5 million years and have been eating berries in the wild for a long time long before modern pesticides. Cooking/freezing/salting and the acid in our guts kills most things, but not the most extreme nasties. I found that there are actually acceptable limits to eating small insects or parts of insects daily by most food processing companies, or even worms in most unprocessed or processed things we consume. Still, seeing it and thinking about it is pretty gross and makes us freak out a bit.
I have had some success with the salt/water but it seems more to annoy them more than kill them. I will try the white vinegar. I agree spring is better for berries. Always rinse/clean/cook your food.
Some years are worse than others, too. This year we didn’t have a worm issue at all (that I noticed!). Maybe I tried not to look too hard. 😉
All of this is the price of fresh, organic food. I will admit, a few years ago when they were RAMPANT, I did throw out a big bowl full I had picked, but this year I’m just tossing the little buggers and the ones I froze I just ate. Whatever. Face it, you’ve been eating them for years and they don’t hurt you. The berries from your yard or picked high above “doggie leg zone” are probably a lot cleaner than what you get from jam purchased from a grocery store. If we’re really trying to eat cleaner and get closer to the earth, just consider this as getting just a little BIT closer to the earth than you were originally prepared for!
Yeah, you kinda worry less and less about it the more you eat off the land. 😉
Washing blackberries by submersing, briefly soaking and then swishing them around removes virtually all larva. You must then LIFT the berries from the water to a colander. Do not pour the larva-filled water over the berries when straining.
The larva are about the length of a type-written “l,” and 2 or 3 times as wide. They clear-ish white with a plainly visible digestive tract that is purple with berry waste.
I purchased 2 pints of berries at a fruit stand. After removing the berries from an initial fresh-water bath, I filtered the water and loose berry remnants through paper towel. I found about 4 dozen larva. Most had not been floating in the bath; they were in the bottom with the loose berry remnants. They were almost all still living.
I rinsed the berries again in a salt water bath, as advised in this column. Removed the berries and strained the salt water bath. I found 0 larva.
I rinsed the berries a third time to clean off the salt water. This time I found 1 additional larva in the strained water. Oddly, it was still vigorously alive.
I carefully dissected several of the ripest, falling-apart berries and found no larva in any of them. The larva seem to live in the berry’s outer crevices, feeding upon the berry flesh.
I hope this has been helpful.
I use heat! Seems like a bad idea because it may make the berries mushy but it doesn’t if you do it quickly. Use hot water (to the point where it gets a little steamy) and soak for about a minute. You’ll see all kinds of ickies! Then drain and soak in very cold watee for a few minutes and drain again. Been doing this with my mulberries, wild raspberries and blackberries for years with great results.
I bought some blackberries from a farm recently. I froze most of them, but kept some in the fridge. Then I noticed that the ones in the fridge have worms. Is there a way to get the worms out of the frozen berries after I defrost them?
I had never seen worms in blackberries before yesterday, and came across this thread after doing a search. I soaked the berries in salt water, but alas, the only things that floated to the top were a few seeds, so I wound up tossing the whole batch. In retrospect, I do recall disturbing groups of small flies while picking. I have never experienced that before either. I will try to find a new picking spot and will be mindful of flies in the future.
I have always washed the berries before making pie, but have never seen a worm before this batch.
I have just spent two days and countless hours picking these little worms out of blackberries.
First, I picked my own berries and found them after making freezer jam so I dumped it all out. Next I bought a flat at a local farmers market thinking that would be safer WRONG!! They had just as many if not more.
I tried the salt bath method and it worked a little. Next I froze them and that helped too but I had to look at each berry individually which took forever and pick them off. When I made my freezer jam put them in a sieve first and then in a strainer but guess what, they were still in the jam. I can see them in the jar. They are dead but I still know they are there. I don’t know what to do – It cost a fortune to buy these berries and I can’t keep throwing them away but it kind of makes me sick to eat the jam. YUK!!!!!
Oh gosh, I’m sorry, Evie!! I’ve found that the berries in Spring don’t have worms in them like the ones in last summer/early fall do. I’m not sure I could stomach the jam if I could see the worms in it. Bleh. 🙁
My aunt suggested to soak them in water and sprinkle some suger in. This is how she has always done it. I can’t say iv done it myself as iv never made it for myself but I thought I’d put the suggestion in for you all to give it a try 🙂
For everyone considering soaking their berries with lemon juice or vinegar in the water, both are acids and will have the same effect. The worms will die (of course) and the berries will have a bit of extra sourness which you can correct with extra sugar. I think lemon juice goes better in the pie or cobbler than vinegar but that’s a matter of individual taste.
Good to know these are just fruit fly larvae. Unpleasant to look at but not harmful. @Shyan, fruit flies don’t naturally carry any diseases that humans are prone to, and eating the larvae won’t hurt you or your baby.
As me and my daughter found many bushes of blackberries, we stop and I tray one as they were so yummy delicious, I could not stop eating them, next day we went back to the stop with a big tray. This was so goo to be true, we pick two tray and I ate there from the vines until my tummy was full (now I say Yuck ! ). At home I rinsed well enough, I put them on the refri, next day the whole tray and I share a few with my husband. As I was eating my daughter was looking at me and didn’t wanted to tray not even one, she said .” mom those berries has tiny worms ” I thought she was givingme and excuse, Next day when I opened the refri I saw some little thing moving I watch carefully and I start noticing many many more OMG ! I wanted throw up badly, I went and dump the next tray to the compost. Yuck! I love love those wild blackberries but not the maggots, is discusting! What a dissapointment, ! I can’t stop thinking how many worms I ate, ! ! Ggghhhhh
I ate a berry with a beetle on.it it wasn’t good
??A merry heart does good like a medicine (Proverbs), and you made me laugh so hard!
My comment was for Hemi ?
I always rinse my berries, veggies, especially broccoli in a sink of water with a dollup of vinegar. Whatever was in them, dies and then floats. Works like a charm, and vinegar is typically used to preserve most things.
Kendra, i have too have a problem. I picked a whole lot of blackberries by the house and seen sooo many white worms. I put them in water writer sea salt an rushed them to the freezer. I’m thinking about picking the worms out and unthawing them as needed. But the problem is I’m 8 months pregnant! I love love love blackberries but will eating the left over worms harm my pregnancy or baby 🙁 ! Help.
Kendra, I can identify with all those that are grossed out by the tiny maggots in berries. I have tame and wild blackberries and others and don’t want to eat them after seeing them appear in a bowl of berries in the refrigerator. The cold seems to draw them out. I wonder if vinegar water would work. I’m told that a bit of vinegar in the hens’ water will get rid of egg worms; thankfully, have not seen any of those! Most people are unaware of the berry worms and eat them anyway; my sons favorite dessert is berry cobbler with a lot of juice, but when I told one son about the worms he said that’s something he would rather not know! Thanks for your post. Claudia
Kendra, It made me more that cringe I was shocked and grossed out by them, but I just tried the lemon method with boysenberries, soaked then in water and lemon juice then lifted them out with a slotted spoon and found hundreds of the worms in the bottom of the bowl. I just hope it got them all.
This happened to me a few years ago and I was that grossed out I haven’t eaten a blackberry since! But I’m devastated as today I picked over 300g from my sole blueberry bush and yep you’ve guessed it I found 2 maggots! I’ve just left them as I can’t bare the thought of finding more. I’ll try both salt and lemon washing methods and then the fridge before I do anything with them. I’m so disappointed!
Oh no, Jasmine! I would just sort through the blueberries well, and toss any that have a tiny hole in them or feel a little more mushy than the others. It would be such a shame to throw them all out.
Hello, I discovered the SWD maggots a few years ago here in Western Washington, I have made jelly with the Squezzo machine (which removes the seeds) for years with wild blackberries and have never seen a maggot. But a few years ago I planted my own thorn-less variety and ran fresh berries through the squezzo and hundreds of the maggots came out with the seeds. I have noticed that if the berries are not over ripe there usually is not a maggot in them.
Doug, you made me cringe at the thought of all of those worms being squeezed out. Yuck!! Yes, you’ve gotta pick the berries *just* as they turn ripe. Anything overripe attracts the flies.
As I read the posts, I cant help but laugh. The worms have always been there or by nature live there. until most found out the critter was there, had no problem eating those berries right off the vine, wild and garden varieties. the easiest cleaning of the worm, is putting them in water for a few minutes until the worm drowns. no other formula is needed. happy picking!!
If they can’t harm you, just a little extra protein. Good to know we won’t get a foot long worm in our intestine. And yes, after many decades of eating them in the wild never a problem.
Looks to me that the only reason to worry about these little critters is when you make wine.
Sorry this does not work. They stick tight to their berry and don’t drown. Salt seems to work but I’ve lost my taste for blackberries after seeing multiple worms wriggle from a big juicy berry.
I soaked mine in salt water for hours. Strained them and put them in the Fridge uncovered for a few days. I pulled them out and there were still worms’ and they were still alive YUCK!!
Update… I really enjoyed the blackberries this morning and no creepy-crawlies sighted 🙂 Yesterday I put them in a bowl of ice water with a squirt of lemon juice for about an hour. I strained out the water and let them dry. I kept them in an open plastic baggie with paper tower in the fridge overnight. The lemon juice seemed to really enhance the flavor.
Thanks for the info. Growing blackberries and raspberries in Central Texas. I noticed these bugs this past week (and also, some type of beetle on one of the plants). I am going to try the lemon-juice + water soak method. For plant treatment, I am going to try a diluted orange oil spray.
Did the orange oil spray work?
Do you need to do this for berrys you buy at the store?
i grow blackberries as well. my friend & i were canning berries, not making jam, and after pouring hot liquid over, sure enough floating on top were the little white worms. All the jars were undone & berries dumped in the sink & i added some vinegar to the water. did the swish thing & i hope all worms were on the surface. it was gross. never tried with salt, but could try that next time. don’t want to spray my plants. don’t like eating worms either.
ewww, thank God i read this. As i have the berries sitting in front of me, i saw a few small tiny white ones and they jump which is so strange!! i will clean them or not eat them. ugh, but i love my blackberries. wish we can grow blackberries in side the house.
I only recently noticed these tiny white worms after soaking my blackberries randomly one day. Now, I do every time. Sometimes they appear, sometimes they don’t. I’ve never used salt water though. I would be afraid they would taste salty. I came across this page doing a search to make sure I am not the only one who has seen these worms. Glad I’m not alone.
Is this a problem only with blackberries? What about raspberries?
Nope, they’re in raspberries too. Check out my post: How To Prevent Raspberry Worms and The Spotted Wing Drosophila
The ‘worms’ are actually the larval stage of drosophila melanogaster – the fruit fly. They are not known to carry any untoward disease pathogens so are essentially harmless if eaten (and there are cultures wherein maggots contribute to dietary proteins), the only real problem here is their ‘ugh’ factor.
These larvae are usually hidden within the fruit so not easily spotted. The best way to get them to come out of hiding is in a container with a transparent lid.
Sort the fruit to remove any badly damaged or inedible ones and place the remainder, unwashed, in your container. There needs to be enough ‘headroom’ so the berries do not touch the lid, cover and leave overnight or, at the very least, a few hours. The larvae will leave the fruit and make their way up toward the light, ending up on the lid. The visible majority can then be easily removed whilst the remaining few that might still be hidden amongst the berries will float to the surface when the fruit is washed.
The reason for not washing them before placing in the container is that the more moist the blackberry the sooner it will start to perish – and you don’t want this to happen before you have had chance to enjoy them 🙂
Omg is this true? Have you tried it?! 😀 I’m doing this to all my berries from now on!!
Yes, I’ve done it lots of times, lol. The same with raspberries. It works 🙂
Do you mean cover them with the lid or cover the lidded container with something – not clear about how they aim for the light if the box is covered ?
Or how they would aim for the light if there is no light in a dark fridge
Once you have picked the berries washed them and cooked them to make you jelly,why worry about the worms they go through the sieve. I’m sure you will eat more than that before you leave this earth, they probably make the flavour better
Thank you for the tip! Blackberries grow like weeds here in Western Washington and one popped up last year on our back fence. We were picking them off and eating them all summer before I noticed the worms…once I saw that all of them had worms on the inside I couldn’t bring myself to eat them anymore and it grossed me out knowing that I had already eaten so many.
I thank you too for this article. I’m also grossed out by the worms in the berries. My freezer is full of fruit and I’m sure worms. I thought I hit the jackpot when my neighbour planted thornless blackberries and has invited me to have as much as I’d like. I was amazed at the size they grew (4 times as wild ones) but was so disappointed to find the critters in them. I did tell my neighbour and but he didn’t want to hear it and figured it was because I looked in a mushy one. It’s not just the mushy ones. I still pick them and thought I would ‘google’ to find a solution. The salt water sounds like a good idea and I’m sure it works, but I’m a busy mom and I think I’ll just eat my added protein. 🙂
I don’t know whether to love you or curse you for this article! Now I can’t stop thinking about all the worms I’ve probably eaten – and wonder about the frozen packages I’ve gotten from the store. 🙁
When I pick my berries, I usually fill a bowl then rinse the bowl in the sink a couple times. Once for the big leaves and bugs, then drain and fill again and let sit. Sometimes ants don’t like to let go on the first rinse. Then I drain, put a towel on the bottom of the bowl (so the berries aren’t sitting in any remaining water) and place it in the fridge overnight.
The next day, I dump them out onto a cookie sheet and give them a good look for under- and over-ripe berries. Then I pack them up to use right away or freeze. I haven’t noticed any worms before, but I’ve had plenty of other critters. Now I’ll have to start looking!
LOL, Calien Laure 🙂 Sometimes ignorance is bliss, isn’t it? 😉
Would this also work for apples?
Not sure how apples would do, cptacek. You wouldn’t be able to soak a whole apple. I usually cut apples into quarters. If there are worms, they’re either in the core, or you can see a hole on the outside of the apple. Just cut the bad parts out 🙂
I soaked! I salted, I squirmed (as did the worms) .. And then I dismembered every single berry to be sure … Still too grossed out to eat any, so now they are in the freezer.
Including picking and all that prep, took about 6 hours for half a kilo. Damn, no wonder they’re so expensive in the shops.
Interestingly, commercially produced fare has an FDA allowance for amounts of bugs, and apparently amounts of rat hairs in peanut butter.
That’s it, I’m never eating ever again.
Hahaha… I’m sorry Louise! I know. The worms are pretty gross. I canned raspberries yesterday, and I kept finding more and more worms. I did the same thing- pulled most of them apart just to see if there might be more inside. Even when I thought I had them all, when I poured the hot syrup over the raspberries in the jars, a few more tiny dead worms floated to the top of the jars (and then were promptly fished out). Sometimes I think it would be better just not to know they are there, lol.
is it ok just to not to worry about the worm and eat worm and all raw. if it is i’m in truble. other countries eat all kind of worms.
I’m sure we’ve all eaten worms in our blackberries at some point. I wouldn’t worry about it too much.
Your comment that we’ve all eaten worms in our blackberries and not to worry too much is really not the way to look at this. The SWD showed up out in Washington over 10 yrs ago and has literally decimated entire crops out there and has now steadily marched east over the Rockies infesting entire crops of berries on it’s way & causing berry growers to lose their entire crops. It came to Indiana 6 years ago and has totally infested my blackberries. I used to harvest 70-75 GALLONS a season from my plants. I don’t care to eat larva. I’ve tried the soaking method, the jar method etc and went on to make my delicious canned pie filling only to find they were still in the berries. I just got off the phone with the owner of Indiana Berry Company in Plymouth, IN and he told me the only spray he knew of that worked on them is almost $500 for ONE lb. I can’t afford that. I grow 14 varieties of fruit including strawberries, raspberries and blueberries as well as grapes, currants, figs etc etc. They attack rasp.&blueberries as well. It’s a very serious problem for those of us who grow fruit from small growers like me to commercial operations. I’m afraid we’ll see the day not too far off when all our fruits are grown in closed buildings. I’ve tried wrapping my entire patch in cicada cloth-big bucks- $$. It kept the devastation to lower then normal but I still had worms. Bottom line, short of shelling out big bucks for the spray, until our scientists and universities that are working on a solution like Oregon U and Purdue, find a solution, we’re losing a lot of money and time. You can soak if you want but I can’t sell my jams, jellies and delicious ready to pour pie fillings until I’m absolutely 100% sure there’s not one single bug in them. None of my customers wants to eat even a few worms. You all can do your part by calling your county extension agent and asking what’s being done in your part of the country to keep these flies at bay and you can contact your local universities or Purdue and educate yourself on ways to keep the infestations as minimal as possible. The SWD is not going away anytime soon. It’s here to stay and it’s affecting the pocketbooks of all of us, some worse then others. I can’t count on the income from 70+gallons I used to sell @$10 a gallon which is a very fair price for organic fruit. We all need to do our part to learn about this pest. I know you guys all care about your friends and neighbors whose lives are being affected by this bug. Imagine it’s June 1st and you’ve got a bunch of ripe bananas on your counter and there’s a couple dozen fruit flies flying around them. Now multiply that bunch of flies exponentially 100%+ and that’s what I walk into when I go out back to my berry patches. Yea I know, I’m passionate about this subject. If I sound angry I don’t mean too. I’m just concerned that all the hard work we’ve put into growing organic fruits is once again being attacked by a silly bug. 😉
I feel your frustration. The point of this article really wasn’t to address the serious issue of this pest, but to help people salvage what they can from their already infested fruit (if they can stomach the idea). I’m so sorry about all of the frustration you are experiencing due to the SWD, though. I hope a solution presents itself for you.
We grow lots of blackberries, and have the same problem. Our solution–we freeze the blackberries in a single layer on a cookie sheet. Then, we take them from the freezer and individually (berry by berry) remove the worms by flicking them off with a toothpick. We then bag them up and pop them back in the freezer. It is very time-consuming, but we don’t end up eating worms!
Just got back from the u pick farm.Some of the blackberries got a bit mushed while being packed around ( my 6 yr old grandson was helping :0))
Anyway…..sorted the berries as best I could….then into the pot on low …then I noticed the tiny white worms on a few berries as they heated up. I am so disheartend I don’t know what to do. I am sure that they have probably been in berries that I have processed in the past….but I didn’t notice them. I just don’t know if i should finish processing them or throw out the batch. :0(
Oh gosh, Kathleen. I’m sorry!!! I know the feeling. If you can get over the ewww factor, the worms won’t do you any harm. It’s just mind over matter though, lol. Sorry about that! You’ve learned a lesson you won’t forget though. Next time, soak your berries first 🙂 Don’t feel bad. I’ve got a ton in my freezer that I froze before treating. I’m sure they’ve got a few worms, too.
I’ve always followed the same ‘remove bugs, worms, residues’ method apart from using lemon juice instead of salt. It has the same result in that the debris floats and can be skimmed off the top of the water before final rinsing.
I think that with my next batch I’ll split them 50/50 and try salt with half and lemon with the other and see which, if any, works better.
Totally agree that blackberry jelly is delicious:-)
If you experiment I’d love to know what you conclude 🙂 I’ll have to try the lemon juice myself and see what I think. Thanks!
Guess it doesn’t hurt someone to eat blackberries with worms. I’m 82 and have been picking and eating these berries (with worms) all my life!
On another subject, you mentioned egg shell calcium water for tomatoes. I have always just put crushed shells in the planting hole. How do you make a water calcium?
Truly enjoy your website!
You must have read about Calcium water somewhere else. I just sprinkle dried eggshells around my tomatoes and plants for a boost of calcium 😉
I just found the worms in my blackberries, thornless, Navaho. What a disappointment. Hartmann’s where I purchased the bushes said that the worms are the SWD or spotted wing Drosophila. The worms are the larvae stage. The adults are a type of fruit fly. I have been reading all about these on the internet. The grower suggested that I spray the bushes with Malathion. He has been using Neem oil but I guess you have to start that before the maggots appear. One website suggested picking the firm berries and disposing of the soft one in a careful manner. You don’t want them on the ground to turn into more fruit flies to attack your plants.
Lord, Nancy, PLEASE don’t spray your bushes with Malathion!! It’s a dangerous poison that will do you and the beneficial insects much harm. Try soaking the berries instead.
Is there a good way to get worms out of frozen blackberries? I visited a U-Pick Farm yesterday and picked several blackberries. I rinsed them in running water when I got home and didn’t notice any worms. I refrigerated a few and froze the rest. As I was eating some of the refrigerated berries for breakfast this morning, I saw worms crawling in some of them. I will definitely salt-water treat these berries, but I’m not sure about the ones that I had already frozen before I realized there was a worm issue. Should the frozen berries be thawed, salt-water treated, and then re-frozen? The freezing will probably kills the worms, but I was hoping to use the berries in a cobbler that I will serve other people (who I like), and I would be embarrassed to have them see worms in it.
Oh gosh, CAR. I’m just not sure. You are right, freezing the berries will kill the worms. But they may not come out of the berries before dying. I’ll tell you what I would do, but you may not like my suggestion, lol. If it was me, I’d just pick off any dead worms I found on my frozen berries, and then proceed as usual. Most likely the worms will try to escape the berry before dying. You might also cut the berries in half and inspect them before cooking. HTH!
Good to know – we’re still waiting on our blackberries to ripen up, so I will definitely have to do this! I had a similar worm experience with our cherry tree…noticing them after having eaten many straight from the tree. YUCK! I’m thinking this would be worth a try on the cherries too!
Since cherries have a harder skin, I’m not sure this would work with them. When I’m processing cherries, I cut them in half to remove the worms- though that can be time consuming if you’re working with a lot. Maybe a cherry pitter would do the same? Hope you get a lot of blackberries!
A few years ago, one of our daughters went to the trouble of picking blackberries and making a pie for her dad. She didn’t eat any, but watched him eat it. A little while later, we found out she had found the worms, but didn’t know how to get them out. Rather than ask, she just cooked them anyhow and didn’t eat any.
That’s SO funny, Ann, lol! I can’t believe she just served them up, hahaha! Well, now you can tell her for next time around 😉
ewww, is it just the thornless variety? We have tons of wild blackberries here in Oregon, everywhere!
I’m afraid not, lol. Worms are going to be in any unsprayed blackberry patch.
The local organic farmer I like to go to told me to do this to my blackberries a couple of years ago. Of course, since than I have been so grossed out about the thought of all the worms I have eaten over the years that I haven’t picked any. : ( I do like me some blackberries though so I guess they are worth the extra effort. : ) My farmer also warned me about pickin’ berries from roadside bushes and fence covering bushes. Many of those bushes have been sprayed with nasty chemicals. Try sticking to bushes you know have been around a while and haven’t been poisoned. blech!
I live next to one of those fences with blackberry bushes and can tell you the local government wouldn’t bother with spraying nasty chemicals on them, that would require an investment of money! I can barely get them out here to trim back the prickly menace on the street. Then when they do, I have to sweep up the mess afterward!
Ummm UGH…stomach turning as we speak! One more thing to clean more thoroughly 🙂
Who Needs A Cape? (Not Your Average Super Moms!)
I was so glad to see this post! I was washing my Marion berries and noticed the worms popping out of them. I didn’t soak them in salt water but just washed them well and picked out the worms then put the berries in the freezer for future jam making. I try to keep in mind that my fruits and veggies are garden grown organically and I have to share my space with other creatures. Cheers!
That’s right, Sheri! It’s actually comforting to me when I find bugs in the produce. I figure if it’s safe for them, it’s safe for me!
I’ve been de-worming mine as well. The first big batch I did the saltwater method, but I wasn’t happy with the berries after that. They broke down somewhat and of course tasted salty. I left them in over night though. The second time I just left them in plain water and that did the trick as well. Lots of drowned worms. Then lastly I rinsed some and put them in a ziploc bag in the fridge to deal with later. Lo and behold all of the worms had died and come out… I guess from the cold. Then all I needed to do was rinse them off.
Good to know, Lerin! I first discovered the worms when I froze a fresh batch, and later discovered the worms had tried to crawl out and had frozen to the berries. Maybe all you need to do is refrigerate them?
OH gross! I was eating berries off the plants yesterday! UGH Never again! Thanks for sharing this, I never knew about it.
LOL… we’ve all done it, Kim 😉 I still eat them straight off the bush sometimes, but the thought of eating a worm is always in the back of my mind, lol.
Great post, thanks.
Its funny how one man’s problem is another man’s food. Many farmers consider blackberries to be problems in their pastures. But foragers and homesteaders see their value as food for humans and birds. Humans see worms as problems, birds see them as food.
What do we know about these worms? Do they add nutritional value to the blackberries? Can they live inside humans or are they digested as free protein?
You’ve added to the ewww factor with the question of whether or not they can live inside of a human. *Shudder* Hopefully if you chew them up well they won’t have a chance to survive, lol.