You Can Catch Flies With Honey, But Fake Sweetener Kills Them

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Fruit flies hungry for sugar are fooled by artificial sweetener, but at least one such product proved to be toxic for them, according to a Drexel University study published in PLOS ONE.

The study was inspired by a sixth grade science fair project. Simon D. Kaschock-Marenda, who is credited as one of the paper's co-authors, was curious about the effect of different sugars and sugar replacements. His father, Dr. Daniel Marenda, an assistant professor of biology in Drexel's College of Arts and Sciences, helped him to set up a series of test tubes with flies fed on various sweeteners.

"After six days of testing these flies in our house, he came back to me and said, 'Dad, all the flies in the Truvia® vials are dead.'" Marenda said. Further tests gave the same results, and so Marenda roped in his colleague, Dr. Sean O'Donnell, a professor of biology and biodiversity, with a background in entomology.

They found that flies raised on food containing Truvia® lived for only 5.8 days on average, compared to 38.6 to 50.6 days for flies raised on control and experimental foods without Truvia®. The toxic ingredient was pinned erythritol, which was not present in any of the other sweeteners.

The scientists have yet to test what other insects might be affected by erythritol and admit that it has limited application as a widespread pest control on plants. But if your kitchen is plagued by fruit flies, it might be worth trying at home.