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Costa Rica, Panama, Colombia. Costa Rica: montane forests throughout, down to about 500m elevation.
Heteroponera panamensis is relatively common but inconspicuous in montane forests throughout Costa Rica. It occurs in closed-canopy forest, near ground level. The small colonies may be in dead sticks on the ground, but more often are in chambers in live plant stems. These may be irregular chambers and necrotic areas in stems that are not usually hollow, or preformed chambers in myrmecophytes such as Cecropia. When the latter, they occupy single chambers in saplings, when the plant has not been dominated by one of its usual associates (e.g. Azteca in the case of Cecropia). Workers occasionally appear in leaf litter samples (Winkler samples) from the forest floor.
Regular winged queens appear to be rare in this species. I have dissected numerous nests and never found a dealate queen or new alate queens. However, I do have a normal alate queen collected as a stray. Close inspection of nest populations reveals what may be ergatoid queens. They have a single, very small ocellus interrupting the median carina on the frons. Also, they appear slightly larger than the average worker. The mesosoma is a bit more robust, and the petiole in profile is thicker, with the posterior margin less concave than in workers. Several other species in the genus are known to have wingless ergatoid queens instead of normal winged queens (Brown 1958).
Brown, W. L., Jr. 1958. Contributions toward a reclassification of the Formicidae. II. Tribe Ectatommini (Hymenoptera). Bull. Mus. Comp. Zool. 118:175-362.
Forel, A. 1899. Formicidae. Biol. Cent.-Am. Hym. 3:1-160.
Kempf, W. W. 1962. Retoques a classificacao das formigas neotropicais do genero Heteroponera Mayr (Hym., Formicidae). Papeis Avulsos Zool. 15:29-47.
Found most commonly in these habitats: 96 times found in montane wet forest, 13 times found in wet forest, 11 times found in mature wet forest, 8 times found in cloud forest, primary, near ridgetop, 8 times found in tropical wet forest, 7 times found in cloud forest, 2 times found in primary wet forest, 5 times found in cloud forest, old second growth forest, 1 times found in montane rainforest, 4 times found in ridgetop cloud forest, ...
Found most commonly in these microhabitats: 58 times ex sifted leaf litter, 31 times Sobre Vegetacion, 26 times Hojarasca, 14 times beating vegetation, 7 times beating veg., 1 times nest in dead herb stem, 2 times Cecropia obtusifolia sapling along river contained nest of Heteroponera in one i, 2 times Nest in dead stick, 1 times ex Cecropia, 1 times en peciolo de Piper sp., 4 times at bait, ...
Collected most commonly using these methods: 49 times miniWinkler, 31 times Sweeping, 16 times search, 25 times Mini Winkler, 21 times beating, 10 times Malaise, 7 times maxiWinkler, 4 times baiting, 4 times Winkler, 1 times pan traps, 1 times Berlese, ...
Elevations: collected from 190 - 1560 meters, 867 meters average