Formic acid is the simplest carboxylic acid with a pungent penetrating odor. Certain species of ants (Wood ants) secrete formic acid from their abdomens. When ants are threatened by predators, they spray formic acid to defend themselves.
A naturalist named John Ray was the first person to isolate the acid from ants in 1671. He distilled crushed bodies of dead ants to extract the acid. Actually, the name formic acid comes from the Latin word for ant, which is “formica”. Today, it is produced industrially. It is commonly used as a preservative and antibacterial agent in livestock feed. Also, it is an important intermediate in chemical synthesis.