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Recently Kanoa Lloyd from TV3 called ACES pest control and asked the question, “how come ants smell?” The answer is simple- formic acid.

Ants produce formic acid for self-defence. Formic acid has that “ant “ smell, that distinctive smell you get when you SQUISH an ant. The smell is strong pungent odour that most people find offensive.

An ant nest will smell of formic acid. Sometimes when ants change location of their nest they can come into close contact with people. This happened to an ACES customer Lisa. She found an entire nest in her hallway. Kilograms of ants were behind her book case. Lisa who doesn’t like ants anyway mentioned they had a terrible smell too.

The word formic comes from the Latin word “Formica “which means ant. Formic acid is really “ ant acid”. Its not surprising that ants can sting as they come from the same group of insects as the wasps and bees; the Hymenopterans

Ants can either use formic when they sting; or they can spray formic acid into a bite they are making with their mandibles. In both cases the formic acid causes pain and discomfort. In New Zealand we are lucky that we don’t have large ants that bite using formic acid. Unlike Australia which as many types of ants that can inflict painful bites and stings.