Formic acid is the old, empirical, chemical name for methanoic acid. This is a substance that is particularly well suited to causing intense pain and death in animals. This tendency is exploited in the many life forms that use it as a venom, including stinging nettles and ants. Another interesting place where one would find formic acid is in the blood of someone foolish enough to have imbibed methanol, a one carbon molecule with three hydrogen ligands and a hydroxide group bonded to it. The body metabolizes this alcohol into methanoic acid, which causes pain, the seperation of the retina, and, in sufficient concentrations, death. The commonly consumed alcohol, ethanol, does not have effects of this severity since it metabolizes into acetic acid, vinegar, instead for formic acid.

Formic Acid is used industrially in removing hair and tanning of animal skins and in the manufacturing of dye and rubber. It is also used to control tracheal mites and help in the suppression of varroa mites in honey bee hives. The name comes from Formica rufa, the scientific name for a species of red ants. Formic acid was originally obtained by crushing these ants and distilling the liquid from them. Now it is created by a two state chemical process. Formic acid in its pure state is a colorless liquid with a sharp pungent odor. This is the odor you smell when you crush ants.

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