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Costa Rica, Panama, Colombia. Costa Rica: montane forests throughout, down to about 500m elevation.
Heteroponera panamensis is relatively common but inconspicuous in montane forests throughout Costa Rica. It occurs in closed-canopy forest, near ground level. The small colonies may be in dead sticks on the ground, but more often are in chambers in live plant stems. These may be irregular chambers and necrotic areas in stems that are not usually hollow, or preformed chambers in myrmecophytes such as Cecropia. When the latter, they occupy single chambers in saplings, when the plant has not been dominated by one of its usual associates (e.g. Azteca in the case of Cecropia). Workers occasionally appear in leaf litter samples (Winkler samples) from the forest floor.
Regular winged queens appear to be rare in this species. I have dissected numerous nests and never found a dealate queen or new alate queens. However, I do have a normal alate queen collected as a stray. Close inspection of nest populations reveals what may be ergatoid queens. They have a single, very small ocellus interrupting the median carina on the frons. Also, they appear slightly larger than the average worker. The mesosoma is a bit more robust, and the petiole in profile is thicker, with the posterior margin less concave than in workers. Several other species in the genus are known to have wingless ergatoid queens instead of normal winged queens (Brown 1958).
Brown, W. L., Jr. 1958. Contributions toward a reclassification of the Formicidae. II. Tribe Ectatommini (Hymenoptera). Bull. Mus. Comp. Zool. 118:175-362.
Forel, A. 1899. Formicidae. Biol. Cent.-Am. Hym. 3:1-160.
Kempf, W. W. 1962. Retoques a classificacao das formigas neotropicais do genero Heteroponera Mayr (Hym., Formicidae). Papeis Avulsos Zool. 15:29-47.
Found most commonly in these habitats: 94 times found in montane wet forest, 11 times found in mature wet forest, 8 times found in tropical wet forest, 5 times found in wet forest, 6 times found in cloud forest, 4 times found in ridgetop cloud forest, 1 times found in montane rainforest, 1 times found in wet forest stream edge, 1 times found in Wet forest, young second growth and forest edge, 1 times found in wet montane forest
Collected most commonly using these methods or in the following microhabitats: 33 times miniWinkler, 30 times Sweeping, 24 times Mini Winkler, 12 times search, 14 times beating, 10 times Malaise, 7 times maxiWinkler, 4 times Winkler, 1 times pan traps, 1 times Berlese, 1 times flight intercept trap, ...
Elevations: collected from 300 - 1430 meters, 822 meters average