Fire Ants are a force to be reckoned with. However there is another insect that can take the heat. The venom is not effective against tawny crazy ants, a new invader spreading in areas of the U.S. Gulf Coast that can outcompete fire ants (Solenopsis invicta).
Recent research has shown that the crazies can neutralize fire ant venom by mixing it with the formic acid that they excrete. The fire ants’ venom contains toxic alkaloids, which are chemically basic (as opposed to acidic). When the crazy ants (Nylanderia fulva) neutralize these chemicals with their own acid, it forms a viscous, greasy-looking substance. Upon closer inspection, this byproduct of ant-on-ant warfare is actually a very special substance called an ionic liquid, which has never before been observed in nature.
An ionic liquid is basically a liquid salt; in fact, they used to be called “molten salts.” If you heat up table salt to 1,474 degrees Fahrenheit, for example, you’d get a type of ionic liquid. But they can also exist at much lower temperatures, and sometimes the term “ionic liquid” is restricted (somewhat arbitrarily) to chemicals that are liquid near room temperature. In any case, humans have created many, many different kinds of ionic liquids, which are used for all sorts of industrial processes, for example in batteries, electrolytes, sealants, and solvents. But we’ve never seen this (or at least noticed it) in nature before which begs the question: is there more out there?