Why You Should Drop Some Artificial Sweetener In Your Garden

You may only be using your Truvia—or any artificial sweetener made with erythritol—to sweeten your coffee and tea. But if that's the case, a recent study shows you're missing out a cool alternative use for these little packets and shakers: they're also effective pesticides.

Researchers with Drexel's College of Arts and Sciences tested sugar alcohol (erythritol) in two separate studies, and found the sweetener can be used as a "potent-but-safe pesticide," safe to use around both humans and our pets. When sprinkled on plants and digested by flies—including pesky fruit flies—erythritol killed the flies within three days. Perhaps even better yet, the sweetener significantly reduced the flies' ability to reproduce, and killed off any existing larvae. Anyone who's had fruit flies fluttering around their indoor herb garden knows just how awesome this simple solution to killing them off could be.

"Erythritol has potential to be deployed in a wider array of settings, targeting adults, egg production, active feeding larvae, or all of the above," researcher Sean O'Donnell, Ph.D., said of the study. So, while the researchers limited their research to flies, they also say erythritol could be an effective pesticide for other insects and pests. (Fingers crossed.)

The researchers are so excited about the prospect of using erythritol as a pesticide, in part, because—unlike many other pesticides—erythritol targets larvae, reproduction, and adult bugs. "Many times, the larvae of insects can be more destructive than the adult," researcher Daniel Marenda, Ph.D., explains. But when they are exposed to erythritol, the majority larvae never passed their larval stage. In fact, just one in 38 larvae lived past three days.

By comparison, it usually takes larvae five or six days to reach the next stage—pupa—and about 90 percent of larvae normally reaches it when they are exposed to other foods.

To be effective, the flies—and their larvae—had to continue to eat the erythritol. If they ate it one day but then returned to other foods the second day, they could survive the pesticide, the research shows. (Their ability to reproduce was, however, still reduced.) So, the key, it seems, to using your Truvia on your home garden is to sprinkle a little on your plants for a few days in a row. The sit back and watch as your home (garden) becomes fly-free.