Formic acid

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Formic acid is named after the ants that use it for attack and defense

Formic acid, which is also called methanoic acid,is an acid which many animals use for defense. The word "formic" comes from the Latin word for ant, formica, referring to its early isolation by the distillation of ant bodies, and the trivial name in some languages means "ant-acid", such as Dutch mierenzuur, Danish myresyre, Faroese meyrusýra, Français wikt:acide formique and German Ameisensäure. Esters, salts, and the anions derived from formic acid are called formates.

In the 15th century, many alchemists reported that ants use an acidid fluid for defense. English naturalist John Ray was the first to get formic acid, by distilling ants, in 1671.

In nature, it is found in most ants[1]. The wood ants from the genus Formica can spray formic acid on their preys or to defend the nest. It is also known from the trichomes of stinging nettle (Urtica dioica). Formic acid is a naturally occurring component of the atmosphere due primarily to forest emissions [2].

References[change | change source]

  1. Hoffman, Donald R. "Ant venoms" Current Opinion in Allergy and Clinical Immunology 2010, vol. 10, pages 342–346. doi:10.1097/ACI.0b013e328339f325
  2. Sanhueza, E., & Andreae, M. O. (1991). "Emission of formic and acetic acids from tropical savanna soils.". Geophysical Research Letters 18 (9): 1707-1710.