Does Artificial Sweetener Help Get Rid Of Ants In Your Lawn?

If you've struggled with ants on your lawn, there's a pretty good chance you've heard that artificial sweetener is sometimes touted as a fix. However, depending on the kinds of ants you're dealing with, that advice may only go so far. What's more, the type of sweetener you use can make all the difference.  When using sweeteners to get rid of ants, many suggestions recommend diluting whatever you have on hand in a tablespoon of milk or some kind of sweet liquid. That mixture should then be placed in a bowl on the lawn to attract as many ants as possible. The ants will likely carry the mixture back to their nest, where the colony will consume it and later die. As a bonus, it's one way to get rid of the ants without ruining your grass

Here's the thing, though: not every ant is quite so sensitive to the ingredients used in common sweeteners. A 2012 study published in the Sociobiology journal has shown that the black garden ant, or common black ant, is fairly unaffected by aspartame. Meanwhile, the Journal of Economic Entomology discovered in a 2017 study that fire ants can be affected by erythritol (used in NutraSweet but not every common sweetener) but that other artificial sweeteners weren't quite as effective. All that to say, there are a few things to take into account before trying this at home. 

Figure out what kind of ants you're dealing with

First things first, it's a good idea to know what kind of ants are taking over your lawn. Since common black ants aren't much affected by aspartame, this hack would be counterintuitive from the get-go, and you're not likely to see any results. As for how you'll know if these are the kinds of ants you're dealing with, you'll need to take a quick look at them. If you discover that they are indeed common black ants, skip the sweetener hack and look into other methods to eliminate them. 

If, on the other hand, you're dealing with red imported fire ants, trying an erythritol-based sweetener, like Swerve and NutraSweet, may be an effective way to get rid of them. You'll know you've been bitten by a red imported fire ant if you've been bitten by one – the pain will last for days and has a burning sensation. However, if you're lucky enough to avoid any fire ant bites, you can figure out how to tell if the ant mound in your yard is full of fire or regular ants. Regular red ant mounds will have clear openings, while red fire ant mounds will not. Red fire ants are also far more aggressive when they are disturbed. If you think you've got red imported fire ants, go ahead and place bowls of erythritol-based sweetener mixed with a tablespoon of water or juice on your lawn near their nests. 

There are some things to keep in mind with this hack

As many pet owners will know, xylitol is often used in artificial sweeteners and is incredibly toxic for dogs. As such, if you're a dog owner thinking of trying this hack to rid your lawn of red imported fire ants, double-check that whatever you're using doesn't contain any xylitol. If you've done that and are sure there isn't any, most other sweeteners aren't dangerous and will only cause an upset stomach. Nevertheless, no one wants their precious pooch feeling unwell, so if you place bowls of sweetener mixed with a liquid on your lawn, keep an eye on both the bowl and your pet. 

Another thing worth keeping in mind is that if you aren't dealing with red imported fire ants, you may want to leave the ants in your garden alone. On top of the sweetener method not being particularly effective with species other than red imported fire ants, some ants can actually benefit the rest of your plants. As such, if they're not becoming a nuisance, leave them be. Alternatively, if the ants are too much, reach out to a local pest control company. They'll have in-depth knowledge about the type of ant you're dealing with and how to best deal with the situation. Spoiler alert: it probably won't be the sweetener method.