There’s a long-held belief that Splenda was originally intended to be a pesticide. This peculiar claim has effectively transmogrified into an urban legend over the years. Though it's been debunked time and time again, this myth has often been used to bolster anxiety about Splenda and its sister synthetic sweeteners like Truvia, feeding into the nasty fiction that they’re unsafe for human consumption.
When it comes to Truvia, though, a new study affirms the claim that it’s an effective pesticide. Late last month, researchers at Drexel University published the results of a study they’d conducted involving Truvia that concerns one of its polyol (sugar alcohol) components, Erythritol. Researchers found that Truvia, if sprinkled generously on soil, acted as a reproductive suppressant for adult flies, halting their egg production and killing the larvae of those adult flies within three days of birth. Though this study only applied to fruit flies, researchers are priming themselves to test their hypotheses against other pests that tend to inhabit and pollute gardens.
These findings grew out of a study conducted last June from the same department that discovered Truvia’s lethality for adult flies, finding that it takes at least three days to kill adult flies if they ingest Truvia consistently. The team figured, though, that focusing squarely on adult populations was too reactive rather than proactive an approach to solving this particular problem; a more effective strategy for dealing with garden pests would target the reproductive stage of flies, with the endgame of curbing pest populations.
If you’ve got a principled aversion to artificial sweeteners, I get it. They’re not for everyone. But instead of ridding your home of them, why not dust your flowerbed with a light coating of Truvia? Your poor plants could use some "sugar."
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EDITOR'S NOTE: This article originally implied that Stevia is an artificial sweetener. It is not.
Have a particular pesticide you swear by? Let us know in your comments.
Mayukh Sen is a James Beard Award-winning food and culture writer in New York. His writing has appeared in the New York Times, the New Yorker, Bon Appetit, and elsewhere. He won a 2018 James Beard Award in Journalism for his profile of Princess Pamela published on Food52.