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Throughout the Neotropics, from southern Mexico to southern Brazil, many Caribbean islands. Costa Rica: throughout the country in all lowland to mid-elevation habitats.
This is by far the most abundant and widespread species of Paratrechina in Costa Rica. It occurs in lowland rainforest, mangroves, dry forest, and synanthropic habitats. It occurs on the ground or in the canopy, in second growth or mature forest. Workers are in nearly all Winkler samples of sifted litter from the forest floor and in nearly all canopy fogging samples.
Workers are generalized scavengers and recruit to baits.
Nests can be found under stones, in cavities in rotten wood, in small sticks in the leaf litter, in ephemeral stems of large monocots, under epiphytes, and opportunistically in ant plants (e.g., Cordia alliodora). Twice I have found small founding colonies with single queens, and once with two queens. The latter was two physogastric queens in a small stick in the canopy. There were no workers, but one of the queens was guarding brood. In general, I do not find large sprawling colonies with many dealate queens. I suspect this species mainly has small, discrete colonies that are monogynous or with few queens.
What I am interpreting as P. steinheili is quite variable and may represent multiple cryptic species. The main diagnostic feature is the coloration of the coxae. This can vary in degree of contrast. Some workers are pale brown, and the middle and hind coxae are paler but not sharply so. Other workers are dark brown with sharply contrasting bright white middle and hind coxae. Some workers have abundant appressed pubescence on the first gastral tergite. On others have none and the tergite is clear and shiny. The darker, shinier versions tend to be in mature rainforest.
Found most commonly in these habitats: 442 times found in mature wet forest, 134 times found in montane wet forest, 31 times found in lowland rainforest, 33 times found in rainforest, 33 times found in tropical rainforest, 10 times found in SSO 350m, 32 times found in tropical rainforest, with some big trees, probably a mix of primary and secondary forest, 15 times found in Sura 700m, 21 times found in wet forest, 14 times found in CES (700.350 GIS), ...
Found most commonly in these microhabitats: 579 times ex sifted leaf litter, 98 times Hojarasca, 44 times at bait, 8 times sifted litter, 7 times Primary, 4 times pecan sandie bait, 6 times Sobre Vegetacion, 5 times beating veg., 3 times Wet forest. Ex sifted leaf litter., 1 times Nest in horizontal rotten log deep in swamp., 1 times Nest in base of bulbous-base Tillandsia., ...
Collected most commonly using these methods: 555 times miniWinkler, 103 times Fogging, 105 times Mini Winkler, 40 times Winkler, 42 times Malaise, 48 times baiting, 25 times Berlese, 20 times search, 14 times Search & Berles, 18 times flight intercept trap, 9 times Lure/Bait, ...
Elevations: collected from 2 - 1400 meters, 176 meters average
Type specimens: syntype of Nylanderia steinheili minuta: casent0903138