How does an ant produce formic acid

Formic acid

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Structural formula of the Methanoic acid

The Methanoic acid (HCOOH), too Formic acid is a common chemical compound that is used today in many areas of everyday life. The formic acid owes its name to the scale ants. The ant species of this subfamily mostly produce methanoic acid as a defense secretion.

All other ant subfamilies do not have any formic acid in the poison gland secretion, but some other rather complicated compounds.

Components [edit]

There are also some other connections, e.g. Some with alarm pheromone effects from the Dufour gland, as well as products often supplied from the rectum.

The best way to read about the individual connections is in "The Ants" (Hölldobler & Wilson, 1990).

Splashing of formic acid by wood ants [edit] Pictures of wood ants splashing formic acid, e.g .: Here you can see the spraying in the film (Ants going to hunt, ants on the hunt, with Prof. Bert Hölldobler).

Use of formic acid in beekeeping

In beekeeping, formic acid (65% / 85%) is used to treat the varroa mite. Formic acid can be bought in every beekeeping specialist and in many pharmacies. The liter costs around 5 euros.

Notes on the use of formic acid in all areas [edit]

Formic acid is highly corrosive, depending on its concentration.
Protective goggles are recommended when using formic acid, but at the latest from a concentration of more than 2 mol / l (corresponds to approx. 10%) mandatory.
After physical contact, the affected area must be cleaned thoroughly under running cold water and, if necessary, consult a doctor.
In the event of eye contact, the open eye must be rinsed out immediately and thoroughly with a light jet of water and an ophthalmologist must be consulted.
Caution is also advised during transport, it is best to also place the container in a bucket.
Always close the container tightly and ensure that it is properly and firmly located on the floor.

Ants have formic acid

That is only partially true. Only one of the 21 subfamilies of ants living today, the Formicinae or scale ants, produces formic acid as a defense secretion or for overpowering prey. This acid can be sprayed towards the opponent at a certain distance ("firearm"), while the other subfamilies drive their poisons into the opponent's body via a sting (e.g. Myrmicinae, knot ants; "stabbing weapon"), or the poisonous secretions with the tip of the abdomen have to apply to the opponent.

The sting poisons of the knot ants or the ponerinae ("primeval ants") do not contain any formic acid. They are similar in composition to the poisons of bees and wasps. In addition, the secretion mixture from the poison glands often contains alarm pheromones ("messenger substances"), compounds for tracing, or even sexual attractants (in female sex animals).

See also [edit]