Mexico to Costa Rica. Costa Rica: widespread; more common in northwestern lowlands.
The species as currently delimited occurs from Mexico to Panama, but very similar or possibly conspecific forms occur throughout South America. Azteca fasciata and A. mayrii are two South American taxa that are closely related to or conspecific with A. beltii.
Longino, J. T., 2007:
Azteca bicolor race beltii Emery 1893:142. Holotype worker, Costa Rica ( Alfaro ) [ MCSN ] (examined). Raised to species: Longino 1996:136.
Azteca fasciata subsp. laeta Wheeler 1942:227. Holotype queen: Panama , Canal Zone , Barro Colorado Island , 9 July 1924 ( Wheeler#637 ), from a domatium of Cordia alliodora [ MCZC ] (examined). Synonymy by Longino 1996:136.
Azteca stolli Forel 1912:54. Syntype workers: Guatemala , Retaluleu ( Stoll ) [ MHNG ] (examined). Synonymy by Longino 1996:136.
Queen characters. Measurements (n=9): HLA 1.90 (1.83-1.93), HW 1.30 (1.27-1.36), SL 0.84 (0.83-0.86, n=8), CI 70 (69-73), SI 45 (44-46, n=8).
Palpal formula 5,3; middle and hind tibia with prominent pectinate apical spur; dorsal surface of mandible largely smooth, with sparse piligerous puncta, setae in puncta short, little longer than width of puncta, larger puncta with long setae near masticatory margin; medial and lateral clypeal lobes at about same level; head rectangular, posterior margin distinctly excised medially; petiolar node short, bluntly rounded; posteroventral petiolar lobe shallow, evenly convex from front to back; scape with sparse erect setae, inconspicuous and only visible at certain angles, about as long as one quarter maximum width of scape; middle and hind tibia with sparse erect setae, fine, inconspicuous, longest about as long as one fifth maximum width of tibia (MTSC 5- 10), side of head with 0-2 short erect setae near mandibular insertion, lacking setae elsewhere, posterior margin of head with sparse short setae; pronotum with posterior row of erect setae, mesoscutum, scutellum and propodeum with sparse erect setae, petiolar node with rim of erect pubescence, in profile with 0-4 erect setae projecting above apex, posteroventral lobe with layer of dense, whitish, erect, pubescence; gastral terga with sparse erect setae; general body color yellow orange, gastral terga with prominent medial dark brown bands, mandibles red brown, middle and hind femur and tibia variably infuscated.
Worker characters. Measurements (n=9): HLA 1.62 (1.37-1.78), HW 1.28 (1.11-1.42), SL 0.77 (0.75- 0.81), CI 81 (76-83), SI 48 (45-56).
Palpal formula 5,3; middle and hind tibia with prominent pectinate apical spur; dorsal surface of mandible smooth and shining, with moderately abundant piligerous puncta; medial and lateral clypeal lobes at about same level; head elongate with weakly convex sides, strongly excavate posterior margin; in lateral profile pronotum shallowly convex, mesonotum more strongly convex and forming separate convexity that protrudes above pronotum; scape with sparse, inconspicuous erect setae, length of setae about one quarter maximum width of scape; mid and hind tibia with moderately abundant erect setae, setae inconspicuous, longest about one quarter maximum width of tibia; side of head with 1-2 short erect setae near mandibular insertion, absent elsewhere along side; posterior margin of head with sparse short erect setae; pronotum, mesonotum, and dorsal face of propodeum with sparse, short, erect setae; color of smaller workers brown, approaching coloration of queen on larger workers.
Similar species. The yellow color and large size distinguishes queens of A. beltii from all other species with elongate rectangular heads. The workers of A. beltii are most similar to workers of A. oecocordia . The largest workers of the former have yellow faces, while workers of the latter always have brown faces.
Range. Mexico to Costa Rica.
Biology. The taxonomy and biology of A. beltii is reviewed in Longino (1996).
Azteca beltii is most abundant in moist and dry forest habitats, although it occurs as a low density element in wet forests. At La Selva Biological station in the Atlantic lowlands of Costa Rica, workers have been collected in a Ficus tree in the lab clearing and from one tree (of about 50) sampled by canopy fogging. It is likely that in wet forests it is found in highly insolated environments like the uppermost portion of the canopy and perhaps relict trees in clearings. In dry forest habitats it is known to nest in live stems in a wide variety of plant species. Very often it nests in myrmecophytes such as Cecropia , Cordia alliodora , and Triplaris melaenodendron , but it has also been found nesting in non-myrmecophytes Piper tuberculatum (Piperaceae), Cochlospermum (Cochlospermaceae), and Pithecellobium saman (Fabaceae). Colonies are large and polydomous, nesting in the live shoot tips over large portions of the crowns of trees. But the workers are timid and appear to spend most of their time inside the stems, so they are not conspicuous ants on the surface. The nest chambers in the live stems usually have very high densities of coccoid Hemiptera. A tree with a large colony of A. beltii can appear herbivore-free on the surface, yet harbor a very large population of Hemiptera that is hidden from view inside of the stems.
Comments. The species as currently delimited occurs from Mexico to Panama, but very similar or possibly conspecific forms occur throughout South America. Azteca fasciata and A. mayrii are two South American taxa that are closely related to or conspecific with A. beltii .
Material examined. COSTA RICA : Guanacaste : Headquarters, Santa Rosa Nat. Park , 10°50'N , 85°37'W , 300m , 16 Jul 1989 ( D. H. Janzen ) - worker ; Bosque Humedo, Santa Rosa Nat. Park , 10°51'N , 85°37'W , 300m , 12 Jul 1985 ( J. Longino ) - worker, queen ; oak forest, Santa Rosa Nat. Park , 10°52'N , 85°36'W , 300m , 15 Jul 1985 ( J. Longino ) - queen ; S end Playa Narano, Santa Rosa Nat. Park , 10°47'N , 85°40'W , 5m , 7 Apr 1990 ( J. Longino ) - worker ; Palo Verde Biological Station , 10°21'N , 85°21'W , 10m , 5 Feb 1989 ( J. Longino ) - workers ; Heredia : La Selva Biological Station , 10°26'N , 84°01'W , 50m , 13 Dec 1997 ( J. Longino ) - worker ; same locality, 13 Jan 1996 ( ALAS ) - worker ; 11km SELa Virgen , 10°20'N , 84°04'W , 500m , 17 Apr 2003 ( D. Brenes ) - worker ; Puntarenas : Curu Wildlife Refuge , 9°47'N , 84°55'W , 5m , 28 Mar 1993 ( J. Longino ) - queen, workers ; Guacimal, rd to Monteverde , 10°13'N , 84°51'W , 400m , 5 Jul 1991 ( J. Longino ) - queen, workers ; Guaria, rd to Monteverde , 10°14'N , 84°51'W , 700m , 25 Jul 1984 ( J. Longino ) - queen ; Guaria, rd to Monteverde , 10°15'N , 84°50'W , 700m , 27 Jul 1984 and 5 Jul 1991 ( J. Longino ) - queen, workers ; Ojo de Agua, rd to Monteverde , 10°16'N , 84°50'W , 800m , 28 Jul 1984 and 5 Jul 1991 ( J. Longino ) - worker ; Rio Lagartos & PanAmerican Highway , 10°10'N , 84°55'W , 100m , 23 Jan 1993 ( J. Longino ) - males, workers ; 7km SSanta Elena , 10°16'N , 84°50'W , 750m , 7 Sep 1985 ( J. Longino ) - alate queens ; HONDURAS : Comayagua : 1mi W.Taulabe , 1990 ( C. Catton ) - alate queen, worker ; MEXICO : Veracruz : Tempoal , 3 Jul 1964 - alate queen [ LACM ] .