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Mexico to Costa Rica. Costa Rica: widespread; more common in northwestern lowlands.
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 vitifolium (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.
I observed a founding queen in a cut branch of a Triplaris tree. The terminal 20-40cm of the branch, the leafy part, was unoccupied. Lower in the branch, a founding queen of A. longiceps and one of A. beltii occupied adjacent cavities. The cavities of the two queens were formerly continuous through a perforated septum, but a plug of particulate matter separated the two. The plug was asymmetrical, as though built from the beltii side. This observation, together with the catholic nesting habits and somewhat bristly mandibles of beltii, led me to speculate that beltii might be a secondary occupant of ant-plants (Longino 1996). Azteca beltii may rely on primary occupants to excavate entrances, entering subsequently and either fighting or walling off the primary occupant.
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.
|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 beltii||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: 21-22, (download)||21-22||21311||GoogleMaps|
Found most commonly in these habitats: 3 times found in roadside, 2 times found in dry forest, 1 times found in roadside vegetation, 3 times found in 2nd growth dry forest, Agricultural Land times found in Disturbed, 1 times found in agricultural/urban, 1 times found in lab clearing in rainforest, 1 times found in mixed trop./temp. mesic forest, 1 times found in montane wet forest, 1 times found in tropical moist forest, ...
Found most commonly in these microhabitats: 2 times In live branch Triplaris melaenodendron, 2 times ex live branch Pithecellobium saman, 1 times The following are from one Piper plant. This shrubby Piper was abundantly inhab, 1 times In Cecropia peltata tree, 1 times ex live branch of Carnaveral, str times collecting in secondgrowth dry forest on slope adjacent to pasture. #3423-s, 1 times tropical dry forest, 1 times Sobre Vegetacion, 1 times Roadside veg., queens from chambers of a single small Cordia alliodora plant, ea, 1 times Roadside veg., medium-sized Cordia alliodora tree; shady area; lone queens in se, 1 times roadside veg., five collections (0850-0854) all from one Cordia alliodora tree., ...
Collected most commonly using these methods: 9 times search, 1 times Sweeping, 1 times fogging, 1 times Malaise.
Elevations: collected from 5 - 850 meters, 300 meters average