Public Release: 

House fly mortality by artificial sweetener: Starvation, not toxicity

Study shows flies fed erythritol die no faster than if fed water alone

Entomological Society of America

Annapolis, MD; March 30, 2017--While recent headlines have noted the potential insecticidal properties of common artificial sweeteners, don't go sprinkling Truvia around your home just yet. A new study on house flies suggests insects likely aren't poisoned by sweeteners--they just die of malnutrition.

A team of researchers at North Carolina State University tested survival rates of house flies (Musca domestica), on erythritol--the main ingredient in Truvia--compared to natural sugar, agar, and water alone. They found that the flies both strongly preferred high-calorie natural sugar when presented with the choice and, when fed only erythritol, they died no faster than when fed only water or agar.

"Based on our results, erythritol does not appear to have insecticidal properties on house flies in the traditional sense, and would not be a candidate for adult control," says Michael Fisher, BCE, lead author on the study and a doctoral candidate at NC State.

Fisher and colleagues also tested mannitol, xylitol, and sorbitol, and found only the sorbitol to have any nutritive value for flies. They identify several possible reasons for the flies' inability to survive on artificial sweeteners, including an inability to digest them, a negative interaction with flies' gut microbes, or digestive blockage caused by the sweeteners. But, while the sweeteners led to high mortality in a lab setting, real-world applications would face practical challenges.

"In nature, and your backyard or livestock operation for that matter, there would be a number of competing food sources," says Fisher. "Ideally, if some type of attractive toxic sugar bait could be developed for house flies or other filth flies, it is important to address attraction, preference, and stimulation of feeding to achieve effective control."

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"Survival of the House Fly (Diptera: Muscidae) on Truvia and Other Sweeteners," by Michael L. Fisher, Fallon E. Fowler, Steven S. Denning, and David W. Watson, will be published online on April 5 in the Journal of Medical Entomology. Journalists may request advance copies of the study via the contact below.

CONTACT: Joe Rominiecki, jrominiecki@entsoc.org, 301-731-4535 x3009

ABOUT: ESA is the largest organization in the world serving the professional and scientific needs of entomologists and people in related disciplines. Founded in 1889, ESA today has over 6,000 members affiliated with educational institutions, health agencies, private industry, and government. Headquartered in Annapolis, Maryland, the Society stands ready as a non-partisan scientific and educational resource for all insect-related topics. For more information, visit http://www.entsoc.org.

Journal of Medical Entomology publishes research related to all aspects of medical entomology and medical acarology, including the systematics and biology of insects, acarines, and other arthropods of public health and veterinary significance. For more information, visit https://academic.oup.com/jme, or visit http://www.insectscience.org to view the full portfolio of ESA journals and publications.

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