Wood ants spray formic acid from their abdomens as a defense. The acid gives off a pungent odor, but does’t hurt unless it gets into an open wound, which is most often caused by the ants biting with their powerful jaws. The acid fumes also irritate the nose and mouth causing coughing and choking.


Wood ants spray formic acid from their abdomens as a defense. The acid gives off a pungent odor, but does’t hurt unless it gets into an open wound, which is most often caused by the ants biting with their powerful jaws. The acid fumes also irritate the nose and mouth causing coughing and choking.


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2 Comments

  1. [*Formica rufa*](https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Formica_rufa) are native to Europe, but were brought to North America. Red ants create pretty large nest mounds and can be very aggressive when defending them. [Here’s a photo](https://www.antwiki.org/wiki/images/thumb/4/47/Formica_rufa_nest.jpg/500px-Formica_rufa_nest.jpg) of a mound with a human for scale.

    They can squirt acid from their acidopore several feet if alarmed as we see with the ladies in this gif (they are al female). [Here’s a photo of the acidopore.
    ](http://antkey.org/sites/antkey.org/files/glossary-term-00882.jpg)

    I haven’t worked with ants, but I would love to do research with them once I finish my Ph.D. Right now it’s all mosquitoes.

    There are a few fun etymology facts about acid and ants:

    1. [Formic acid](https://pubchem.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/compound/Formic-acid) derives its name from the Latin word for ant, *formica*.
    2. The taxnomic family for ants is *Formicidae*.

    For more information about red wood ants please check out these articles:

    * [*Ants fire acid to ward off predators. Woodland ants fire jets of formic acid into the air to ward off aerial predators when they feel threatened in a forest in Dorset*](https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/earth/environment/10703148/Ants-fire-acid-to-ward-off-predators.html)

    * [*‘Chemist’ ants brew antibiotic cocktail to protect their colony*](https://www.sciencemag.org/news/2017/03/chemist-ants-brew-antibiotic-cocktail-protect-their-colony)

    * [*Formic rufa*](https://www.antkeepers.com/ant-species/formica-rufa-red-wood-ant/) – AntKeepers

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