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Midlothian teacher finds what appears to be a poisonous beetle in salad container

Posted at 11:10 PM, May 18, 2016
and last updated 2016-05-18 23:17:45-04

MIDLOTHIAN, Va. -- It was clinging to the bottom of the organic spinach container, and first grade teacher Ashley Stowell could hardly believe it’s clearly visible eyes.

"I ate from that salad container for three days before I realized there was a bug at the bottom,” Stowell said.

Beetle in spinach

But a quick Google search, made her stomach turn.

"Especially because I've never seen a bug like that before,” Stowell said. “I'm a first grade teacher, so I tend to over-analyze and when I see bright red and bright yellow wings, I think why does it look like that, why does it have those features and it's probably poisonous."

"Definitely looks like a blister beetle," said state entomologist Dr. David Gaines.

Iron Cross Blister Beetle

Iron Cross Blister Beetle

Gaines said if eaten, the "Iron Cross Blister Beetle" probably wouldn't kill a human, but it wouldn't be a pleasant experience either.

"You’ll end up in the hospital vomiting blood or urinating blood,” Gaines said. “Certainly not a pretty picture."

Gaines said the cantharidin or toxic blistering agent in the joints of the beetle, is a defense mechanism and that the bugs like to hide in leafy greens and grass.

"These kinds of beetles are all over the country," he said.

After a quick search online, CBS 6 found several reported cases of what appear to be blister beetles in store-bought salads, with most cases on the West Coast.

Ashley Stowell

Ashley Stowell

Gaines said your best defense against eating something like this, is to thoroughly wash your veggies and look through them.

Stowell said this lesson has been learned.  "Even if the package says thoroughly washed and it's organic, people should look at what they're eating."

She said she sent pictures to Chiquita, the salad maker, and they said they are reporting it to their quality assurance team. Stowell said she has been in touch with them over the phone since as well.

CBS 6 also reached out to Chiquita late Wednesday afternoon, but they had not return our phone calls by Wednesday night.