It is decomposed by heat into the oxide and water, and is soluble in ammonia but not in excess of dilute potassium hydroxide; this latter property serves to distinguish it from zinc hydroxide.
It is of nocturnal and burrowing habits, and feeds on decomposed animal substances, larvae and termites.
Its power depends on the fact that it is slowly decomposed by the tissues, and free iodine given off.
It forms red crusts, is insoluble in cold water, but is decomposed by boiling water.
The original hypothesis of Baeyer suggested that the course of events is the following: the carbon dioxide is decomposed into carbon monoxide and oxygen, while water is simultaneously split up into hydrogen and oxygen; the hydrogen and the carbon monoxide unite to form formaldehyde and the oxygen is exhaled.