I wish I could tell you that this headline is just clickbait, but I’m afraid not. Yes–someone actually found wasps in their Trader Joe’s figs.
Now, let’s find out why and if it’s possible to avoid the same gross fate…
Types of Figs at Trader Joe’s
Before we break the bad news, let’s go over the good news (which might not seem like such good news once you get to the end of this article).
Your favorite neighborhood grocer and snack emporium, Trader Joe’s, carries lots of different types of figs (and they all might be harboring a creepy secret).
Trader Joe’s has been known to carry…
- Fresh figs
- Dried Turkish figs
- Fiddle Leaf figs (potted fig trees)
- Black Mission figs
- Dried Golden figs
(If you haven’t tried them, they also carry a box of delicious Fig & Olive Crisps for $3.99 that are amazing with some goat cheese and honey…)
The Truth About Fig Wasps
The drama all started with a blog post from biologist Colin Purrington.
A former Swarthmore College professor, Purrington blogs about nature and biology, and decided to settle a debate about whether or not the wasps that pollinate Turkish figs end up inside of the figs themselves.
The “fig wasps” Purrington was looking for are technically known as Agaonidae (in the Chalcidoidea “superfamily” of wasps). All figs are pollinated by very small wasps in this specific wasp family.
It’s long been known that these fig wasps pollinate fig trees and then die inside the immature fruit. In fact, figs can only reach full maturity if a fig wasp dies inside of them. Pretty weird, right?
In fact, wasps don’t just die inside of figs… They also lay eggs. Female wasps specifically burrow into immature figs (beginning the critical pollination process), then eventually lay eggs, which hatch into larval wasps and eventually mature, burrow out, and fly away.
It seems obvious based on this knowledge that figs would contain some dead wasps. But for a long time, biologists just assumed that the bodies of the fig wasps would just… dissolve, or something?
Colin Purrington wasn’t satisfied with this assumption, so he decided to take a look himself.
Finding Wasps In Trader Joe’s Figs
Purrington bought a bag of Organic Turkish Dried Figs from Trader Joe’s to conduct his experiment.
As for what he found? The bag was full of wasps.
Not only did Purrington find a wasp in the first fig he checked–he found wasps in almost every single fig.
We won’t post the photos here for copyright reasons, but you can check out Colin’s close up photos of the fig wasps at his blog here. (Brace yourself–it might turn you off of figs forever.)
The news was even picked up by a few news sources, including the Philadelphia Inquirer, who reported on the issue last Friday.
The Future of Trader Joe’s Figs
So… now what? Is Trader Joe’s going to discontinue figs? Is it even safe to eat fig wasps?
At this point, it’s too early to tell how TJ’s will respond to this strange publicity. But chances are, they won’t be pulling figs from their shelves any time soon.
That’s because all figs (yes, all figs) are likely to contain wasps, and we’ve all been eating them happily in our ignorance since the beginning of time.
In other words, eating fig wasps is not dangerous at all, and it shouldn’t take away from your ability to enjoy a delicious fig or three or four this summer.
That is, as long as you can get Colin’s creepy wasp photos out of your mind…