Austin, Texas, USA to Costa Rica (Watkins 1977). In Costa Rica,known from Atlantic slope sites (including La Selva, Monteverde).
Nomamyrmex esenbeckii wilsoni is in the tribe Ecitoninae,which are the New World army ants. It shares with all army antsthe habits of group raiding and colony nomadism. wilsoni columns may be found day or night. The workers are robust and their columns very conspicuous. The species is uncommon relative to several species of Eciton and Labidus.
Nomamyrmex esenbeckii sensu lato appears to be a specialist raider of Atta colonies (Swartz 1998 and included references). Swartz reviewed the earlier literature, in which workers reported Nomamyrmex raids on Atta colonies in Mexico and various sites in Brazil. She also observed and carefully documented a raid on an Atta cephalotes colony in Corcovado National Park, Costa Rica.
I have once observed this subspecies with prey. A column was enteringand issuing from fissures in a trail, carrying abundant larvaeand pupae of Atta, including pupae of fairly large workers.Also see observations on subspecies crassicornis, whichalso occurs in Costa Rica and has been observed attackingAtta.
Kjetil Aasen, a student working at La Selva Biological Station during the summer of 1997, made the following observation of a Nomamyrmex raid on Atta cephalotes:
On the evening on my last day at La Selva, I went to take a look at the Atta cephalotes colony between the bridge and the library and I was surprised to find a fierce battle in progress. It was dark and it was raining and thousands of Atta soldiers and Nomamyrmex esenbeckii were fighting in the area surrounding the main entrances of the Atta nest. They were all emerging from two closely spaced nest entrances and most of the Nomamyrmex were in the mandibles of some large leafcutter. In most cases, the Nomamyrmex were caught by their antenna, but they still managed to sting Atta, and they seemed to be very good at this because there were many dead or dying leafcutters on the battlefield. I did not see many dead Nomamyrmex.
Swartz, M. B. 1998. Predation on an Atta cephalotes colony by an army ant, Nomamyrmex esenbeckii. Biotropica 30:682-684.
Watkins, J. F. II 1977. The species and subspecies of Nomamyrmex (Dorylinae: Formicidae). Journal of the Kansas Entomological Society 50:203-214.
Found most commonly in these habitats: 8 times found in montane wet forest, 1 times found in lowland wet forest, 5 times found in Arboleda, 5 times found in STR 650m., 2 times found in lowland rainforest, 1 times found in coffee farm, 3 times found in Arboleda., 3 times found in SOR 750m., 1 times found in CES.350m., 1 times found in Refugio el Ceibo, ...
Collected most commonly using these methods or in the following microhabitats: 26 times Lighttrap, 11 times Blacklight, 4 times Mercury Vapor Light, 2 times search, 3 times light trap
Elevations: collected from 50 - 1400 meters, 280 meters average