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Guatemala south through Central America to north coastal Colombia, Venezuela, and Guyana. Costa Rica: throughout.
The taxonomy and biology of A. constructor are reviewed in Longino (1989b, 1991a, b). See also general treatment of the Cecropia-Azteca association in Costa Rica.
Azteca constructor is an obligate Cecropia ant. It occurs throughout Costa Rica, in a wide variety of habitats and in a variety of Cecropia species. I have found queens in Cecropia saplings from sea level to 1500m. Queens occur abundantly in saplings of C. peltata, C. obtusifolia, and C. insignis, and I have occasionally found queens in saplings of C. angustifolia, a non-myrmecophytic cloud forest species which does not harbor Azteca colonies when mature. In the lowlands, A. constructor colonies are common in mature trees of C. peltata on the Pacific coast and C. obtusifolia on the Atlantic coast. In the Atlantic lowlands, mature C. insignis trees are dominated by A. ovaticeps (D. and D. Clark, pers. com., and pers. obs.). This contrasts with the uplands, where in relatively undisturbed forest C. insignis is the only myrmecophytic Cecropia species. In these upland sites, saplings are filled with queens of A. constructor and A. xanthochroa, which implies that nearby mature trees of C. insignis must harbor reproductive colonies of A. constructor. Thus, hostplant use appears to vary with region and elevation.
Pleometrosis at colony founding is very common, particularly at upland sites, and I have found up to 10 queens in a single internode. Mixed-species associations are common, with queens of A. constructor and A. xanthochroa inhabiting the same internode. Colonies at a stage where there are hundreds of workers and the queen has become physogastric are generally monogynous, but I have twice observed colonies at this stage with two physogastric queens. In both cases, the queens have been close together in the central carton nest of the colony. Multiple physogastric queens in young colonies are apparently common in Monteverde, Costa Rica (D. Perlman, pers. com.). I have dissected two mature colonies of A. constructor, and both were monogynous.
Mature colonies occupy a single carton nest in the bole of the tree. The nest is spindle-shaped and causes a deformation of the trunk. All larvae and alate sexuals are concentrated in this single nest. Branchtips, which all communicate internally with the carton nest, contain only workers and Homoptera. Workers of this species are extremely aggressive, and respond to any disturbance by pouring out of large fissures near the carton nest and blackening the trunk surface.
Alate queens of this species and another common Cecropia ant, A. xanthochroa, are relatively common in Malaise trap samples from the Atlantic slope rainforests of Costa Rica. No other Azteca species are common in Malaise traps, even though they are common in the environment. Even the other common Cecropia ants, A. alfari and A. ovaticeps, are not common in Malaise samples. This implies that there is something distinctive about the behavior of queens of these two species that makes them more susceptible to capture.
|Azteca constructor||Forel, A., 1899, Biologia Centrali-Americana; or, contributions to the knowledge of the fauna and flora of Mexico and Central America. Insecta. Hymenoptera. 3 (Formicidae)., London: Unknown Publisher: 110, (download)||110||8170|
|Azteca||Longino, J. T., 2007, A taxonomic review of the genus Azteca (Hymenoptera: Formicidae) in Costa Rica and a global revision of the aurita group., Zootaxa 1491, pp. 1-63: 8-10, (download)||8-10||21311|
|Azteca constructor||Longino, J. T., 2007, A taxonomic review of the genus Azteca (Hymenoptera: Formicidae) in Costa Rica and a global revision of the aurita group., Zootaxa 1491, pp. 1-63: 26-30, (download)||26-30||21311|
Found most commonly in these habitats: 13 times found in La Selva, 10 times found in wet forest, 10 times found in roadside vegetation, 6 times found in rainforest, 1 times found in behind comedor, 6 times found in montane wet forest, 1 times found in tropical moist forest, 3 times found in tropical rainforest, 3 times found in dry forest, 1 times found in 2nd growth moist forest, ...
Found most commonly in these microhabitats: 9 times ex Cecropia, 7 times ex Cecropia obtusifolia, 7 times Malaise trap, 7 times ex Cecropia sapling, 1 times P007, 7 times in Cecropia sapling, 5 times in Cecropia obtusifolia sapling, 1 times second growth veg., 3 times in Cecropia, 3 times in Cecropia peltata, 2 times ex Cecropia insignis sapling, ...
Collected most commonly using these methods: 29 times Malaise, 15 times search, 2 times Foggin, 1 times Malaise trap, 1 times flight intercept trap, 1 times Fogging.
Elevations: collected from 5 - 1700 meters, 428 meters average