We get some crazy calls here at the IPC, including some that are a little gross—such as when someone has eaten a BUG. I’m a cold-weather person for a number of reasons, one of which is there are considerably fewer bugs around in winter. Warm weather means a greater chance of a run in with one of mother nature’s winged or multi-legged critters. Here is a list of the most common type of bugs swallowed by people in Illinois:
The brown marmorated stink bug is found throughout Illinois and is considered an agricultural pest. As the name implies, they are also offensive to the nose. The chemicals that produce the nasty smell are called trans-2-decenal and trans-2-octenal. Trans-2- decenal is also found in the herb cilantro. This is why the scent of these critters has been described as “a pungent odor that smells like coriander” (coriander being the seed of the cilantro plant). This is also why a lot of people, myself included, have an extreme aversion to cilantro—it’s like eating stink bugs! Despite the odor, they are not poisonous or toxic. These insects appear in biggest numbers in the fall, so keep an eye (and nose) out!
2. Lady Bug
I would call this the best looking bug on the list. Many different species of small beetles are referred to as lady bugs. These insects are helpful because they eat other insects, including those that are damaging to crops. These attractive-looking bugs are not poisonous (and I imagine they are a little crunchy…)
Image credit: pestworld.org
Moths and butterflies start out as caterpillars. While there are many individual species throughout the world, those found in Illinois are not toxic. Still, if they are swallowed, the little hairs on the outside of their bodies can cause itching and irritation to the skin. Enough irritation to the mouth or throat can lead to swelling, and in turn, trouble swallowing or even breathing. Best to keep these guys out of the mouth and inching around on the ground.
4. Lightning Bug
Also known as the firefly, although these critters are actually beetles, not flies. Many of us have childhood memories of catching them in empty pickle jars in the backyard. Their glow—the technical term is bioluminescence—comes from a chemical reaction in their abdomen. The lightning bug is another flying snack that is not poisonous (despite the fact that they literally glow in the dark).
Image credit: Phipps conservatory
Definitely the grossest one on the list, maggots are essentially, baby flies—the stage in between being an egg and an adult fly. Maggots are not toxic, but they are often ingested along with spoiled food, so there is a concern for bacterial contamination in that case. (IPC can help with bacterial food poisoning too!)
WHY would anyone eat any of these bugs you might ask? Most of the time, it’s one of two culprits: spoiled food (as is the case with #5) or curious children. Kids learn about and explore their environment by picking things up and putting them in their mouths. Cute red lady bugs, squirmy fuzzy-looking caterpillars, or glow in the dark lightning bugs could pique a child’s curiosity. However, I don’t understand the appeal of the stink bugs—maybe you cilantro lovers out there can help me out?
Reminders: Click here to request a free IPC Complimentary Safety Packet (available in English and Spanish; includes a free sticker and magnet) and don’t forget to save the IPC 800-222-1222 free, confidential Helpline in your phone(s); you never know when and from where you’ll need to call!