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Southern Mexico south through Amazonia. Costa Rica: Atlantic and Pacific slopes, wet and dry forests, sea level to at least 1200m in places.
unidentata s.s.: This species is a very common ant in most Costa Rican forests, occurring in the canopy and low arboreal stratum. It is an opportunistic cavity nester, most often using dead branches and stems. It may occasionally be found in Cecropia saplings, and the abandoned carton nests of other ant species. Nests are small, often containing fewer than 10 workers. I once collected two dealate queens together in a small rotten stick, suggesting that pleometrotic founding may occur. The larvae are subject to predation by syrphid flies. The following two accounts are of syrphids found in unidentata nests:
Corcovado National Park, Sirena; 22 December 1981. Dana Meyer found a colony in a piece of rotten stick, hanging vertically at 1m height, outside dia. 9mm, inside 6mm. There were 12 ants total in the nest, including the single queen, 8 pupae, and 8 large larvae. Some may have been lost when the nest was first broken open. Two of the pupae were parasitized. There were fly puparia inside cocoons that had been neatly cut to allow for the greater width of the puparia, making a chinese lantern effect. The cuticle of the puparium was translucent, the organs visible inside. There was a produced, oval callosity on the side with a longitudinal slit in the center of the callosity. A darkly pigmented nipple was on one end. Two parasitoids were isolated from the ants. On 8 January one fly eclosed. Its wings did not expand properly. The puparium opened circumcissally just above the callosity on the ventral side. I put the remaining puparium back in with the ant colony, and the ants immediately picked it up and carried it back into the nest, where they placed it with the rest of the cocoons. They then returned and picked up the naked, empty puparium of the first fly (with much difficulty). They licked and fondled the empty skin for much longer than they licked the first, entire puparium. Finally they put the empty puparium with the cocoons. On 10 January I found the second fly dead outside the ant nest. Its wings had been clipped off, by the ants I presume.
Near Monteverde, 28 July 1984. Nesting in center of suspended rotten stick. The nest contained 4 or 5 parasitized pupae. The cocoons were split down the sides to accomodate the globose fly puparia, creating a chinese lantern effect. I kept four pupae alive in the lab, attempting to rear adults. I removed the surrounding ant cocoon from one of the pupae, and left the cocoons on the remaining three. An adult fly emerged from the naked pupa several days later, but its wings never unfolded properly. I waited another four days, and then observed that the remaining three were dead. They were pharate adults, and the pupal skins had split, but they were trapped inside by the ant cocoons. Thus, the flies must require the presence of the adult ants to remove the cocoon.
JTL-008: This species is very common in the canopy of mature forest at La Selva Biological Station, where it has been collected in canopy fogging samples from at least 5 different trees, and as strays in recent treefalls. I have two other collections from other localities: (1) a worker from a canopy tree, at 500m elevation in Braulio Carrillo National Park; and (2) workers from a recent treefall, Maritza Biological Station in the Guanacaste Conservation Area.
JTL-009: This species I know from one specimen; a worker from a canopy tree at Sirena, in Corcovado National Park.
JTL-010: This species I know from two collections in Costa Rica: (1) nesting in an internode of a Cecropia insignis sapling, at Casa Plastico near Rara Avis; and (2) a stray worker from Hitoy Cerere Biological Reserve. I also have workers collected by Phil Ward (PSW#11398) from a roadside Cecropia in Ecuador, and they are essentially identical to the Costa Rican collections!
Brown, W. L., Jr. 1957. Biological investigations in the Selva Lacandona, Chiapas. 4. Ants from Laguna Ocotal (Hymenoptera: Formicidae). Bulletin of the Museum of Comparative Zoology 116:228-237.
Mayr, G. 1862. Myrmecologische Studien. Verh. Zool.-bot. Ges. 12:649-776.