Ants are known for their brutal stinging behavior, particularly fire ants that can even kill a human by stinging the body multiple times and injecting poison.
Do Ants Contain Formic Acid? Ants contain formic acid in a venom gland that can be used against predators or preys to kill them for defense and food. It can help warn against the danger and help cover bodies, making them distasteful for predators. It can also help leave trails to get back home, clean up the stomach, and disinfect nests and food before eating.
Every species of ant is not an effective stinging pest, but all of them use formic acid as a weapon to fight off their predators and make them die by stinging or biting.
Why do ants contain formic acid?
These tiny insects contain formic acid in their bodies, which can help improve survival in different ways. Ants use it to find a food source, give warning signals, and avoid attackers.
Defense against predators
It benefits these tiny creatures as it helps them fight against predators and avoid deadly attacks.
They release chemical secretions from the poison gland and cover their bodies with the chemical, making them unattractive to predators.
These secretions can make them smell bad as it is a pungent liquid that tastes sour due to lower pH between 3 and 3.4.
In addition, it is a methanoic acid that is not intentionally ingested by animals due to its acidic nature, as it is not safe to consume.
It can produce a burning sensation on the predator’s body when they come closer to chemically covered ant bodies and try to eat them.
In addition, these insects can spray poisonous chemicals on the predator’s body to make them feel helpless due to painful sensations, as they cannot tolerate a burning effect.
Leave scent trails
They use formic acid for marking trails when they are leaving their nests for food and moving long distances away from their nests.
It becomes challenging to find their nest if they walk several miles away from their territory in search of food and moisture. They have to memorize the route by storing the visual memories.
Moreover, they have to release chemical secretions while moving on the ground that can be detected using antennae when they return home.
The antennae contain specialized sensory receptors that can capture odor molecules of chemical secretions and allow them to follow the path.
So, it plays a crucial role in avoiding the risk of getting missed or lost when foragers are navigating the territory, but they can lose a trail if any dominating smell masks their odor.
Warning against danger
They release a poisonous chemical when they have to give a warning signal to other fellows and recruit nest fellows after finding a large predator in their territory.
When an ant detects other insects or even the ants of other species, it begins to release these chemicals and make noises to gain the attention of its fellow members.
It results in the recruitment of the colony’s army when they recognize the signal and feel vibrations. They collectively fight to protect their territory and keep the invading insects at a distance.
These wars are usually deadly for one of the participants because they do not stop fighting until they kick others out of their territory and can fight to their death.
Clean up the stomach
Ants store acid in their poison gland, which is present in the invaginations of sternum valves and gets open into the stinging organ.
These insects usually swallow it to improve microbial communities within the gut and intestinal flora that can help avoid the risk of infections.
Moreover, it helps make the stomach environment acidic and disinfect the food particles loaded with harmful bacteria and other germs entering their stomach to keep them healthy.
It can kill harmful bacteria within the stomach and helps acquire beneficial microorganisms to improve digestion.
Kill harmful germs in food
It can be used to disinfect the food particle before consuming food and water, as you can see them cleaning the ends of the abdomen after eating.
These insects locate food and break the bigger particles into smaller ones to take them home. After that, they begin to chew and dissolve the chemical components with its help.
Moreover, it can help dissolve complex substances and remove harmful germs from the particles, making them suitable for digestion.
These tiny creatures can produce almost 1.8 to 2mg of the poison in their venom gland, which contains a combination of acids, but formic acid is present in an abundant amount.
Furthermore, almost 58 to 59% of formic acid and 1 to 1.5% of succinic acid are present in their venom glands.
Disinfect the nest and brood
The acidic secretions released from the stinger pore on the abdominal region of the ants’ body can help disinfect the nest and avoid the risk of infection in the colony.
It is essential to keep the nest clean because fungus and mold can grow on moist surfaces as their nests are present in wet places.
Moreover, they use saliva or other poisonous secretions to disinfect the babies and the brood as they are more prone to damage due to lesser resistance against harmful organisms.
Cleaning the brood bodies can help avoid the risk of systematic diseases in the colony that can lead to the death of the entire colony if it is not resistant to harmful organisms.
How do ants release formic acid?
Ants have developed different mechanisms for releasing formic acid from their poison gland. For example, they can inject stingers into the predators’ bodies and secrete chemicals directly into their bodies.
This injected chemical reacts when it gets inside the body, making them feel helpless. In addition, it is responsible for causing a severe burning sensation and even making them die after multiple stings.
Moreover, a few species of ants prefer to spray the chemicals due to the absence of stinger-like leafcutter ants that spray venom on the predator’s body to ward them off or kill them.
In addition, they can release formic acid on their own bodies to cover their exoskeleton with the secretions. This strategy is quite effective against predators and helps improve their survival.
Do dead ants release formic acid?
Dead ants can also produce acidic secretion when the decaying process starts, but it differs from the onZ1Qqe produced in their poison gland.
These decaying insects release oleic acids, which are fatty acids and give off a mild odor. These insects can detect the scent of dead insects as their receptors can identify a variety of smells.
This stinking odor can only be detected by your nose when you come across a pile of dead insects, as the smell of oleic acid is not so prominent.
Moreover, it only gets released from living insects when they struggle to survive by calling their nest mates and warding off predators.
They release poison when they kill their prey and eat them for nutrition.