Aspartame-based Sweetener as a Strong Ant Poison: Falsifying an Urban Legend?
Keywords:ants, artificial sweetener, black garden ant, hoax, Lasius niger, pest control
Information about the usability of artificial sweeteners, mainly aspartame, for controlling pest ants has spread widely in the internet. With a laboratory experiment we tested the effect of an aspartame based sweetener on the mortality of the black garden ant Lasius niger, a common pest ant in kitchens in Europe. The aspartame-based sweetener was added to the laboratory jelly food of ants in the experimental group (16 colonies). The control group (14 colonies) received otherwise similar jelly but without the aspartame-based sweetener. During the 35 day period of experiment we did not find any signs of aspartame induced mortality in tested ants. In addition, 135 colony founding L. niger queens were submerged in a sweetener solution (artificial sweetener + distilled water) and 135 queens were submerged in distilled water (control). The overall mortality was very low (<1.5%) and no between-group differences in mortality were found within 24 and 96 hours. Our results strongly oppose the rumors that aspartame sweeteners are effective as an ant poison, at least with a typical dose of household aspartame products.
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