Are Figs Really Full of Baby Wasps?



When it comes to accidental insect consumption, any 12-year-old boy can set you straight. The black dots in bananas are tarantula eggs and fig bars are full of baby wasps. While the black dots in bananas are actually immature seeds that won’t develop, an inquiry into the world of figs turns up stories of fig plants teeming with insects and fruit having been split open to reveal hoards of small wasps. While that image might not be very appetizing, there’s no reason to swear off figs just yet. The little insects are fig wasps, and they play an essential role in the fig’s life cycle as the plant’s only pollinator. That means that for pollen from one fig plant to reach another plant, fig wasps must do all the leg work. In return, the plant provides fig wasps with their only sources of food and shelter. So, what happens when it’s time to harvest the figs? Are the wasps still inside? Do food companies scrape them out before they turn figs into jam? Were the 12-year-olds right all along — are we really eating a mouthful of sweet baby wasp paste? Is there a female fig wasp stuck in my teeth? Yes, edible figs wind up with at least one dead female wasp inside, but it's still not quite the childhood myth of fruits squirming with insect meat. The fig basically digests the dead insect, making it a part of the resulting ripened fruit. The crunchy bits in figs are seeds, not anatomical parts of a wasp. It's important not to get too bent out of shape over the possibility of accidentally eating the occasional insect. Even with the use of modern pest control, insects partially contaminate most agricultural products upon harvest and on the way to market. From canned corn to curry paste, from premium coffee to peanut butter, most foods contain insects. Pssst! There’s even fruit fly eggs in ketchup. Bon app├ętit!