Azteca gnava

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Azteca gnava
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Arthropoda
Class: Insecta
Order: Hymenoptera
Family: Formicidae
Subfamily: Dolichoderinae
Tribe: Leptomyrmecini
Genus: Azteca
Species: A. gnava
Binomial name
Azteca gnava
Forel, 1906

Azteca gnava casent0619156 p 1 high.jpg

Azteca gnava casent0619156 d 1 high.jpg

Specimen Labels


A wet and moist forest ant that can be relatively common in some areas albeit in the canopy ant gardens that constitute its nests. Each colony typically has one or more large central gardens and numerous smaller satellite gardens.

At a Glance • Ant garden  



Longino (2007) - The queens of A. gnava are most similar in size and shape to queens of Azteca instabilis and Azteca sericeasur. They differ from A. instabilis by the small ocelli (OCW < 0.15 for A. gnava, > 0.20 for A. instabilis), and from A. sericeasur by the uniformly brown face (with extensive yellow coloration on A. sericeasur). Azteca gnava differs from both species in the deep posteroventral petiolar lobe, with vertical to concave posterior face. Workers of A. gnava are difficult to distinguish from A. velox and Azteca nigra. They tend to be somewhat larger than both. The ventral petiolar lobe is more strongly developed than A. velox, and the scapes tend to be relatively shorter than A. nigra.

Azteca gnava may be close to or the same as Azteca ulei, the ants from Ule's classic studies of Amazonian ant gardens (Ule 1901).

Keys including this Species


Latitudinal Distribution Pattern

Latitudinal Range: 19.32972222° to 8.483333333°.

Tropical South

Distribution based on Regional Taxon Lists

Neotropical Region: Costa Rica (type locality), Ecuador, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Panama.

Distribution based on AntMaps


Distribution based on AntWeb specimens

Check data from AntWeb

Countries Occupied

Number of countries occupied by this species based on AntWiki Regional Taxon Lists. In general, fewer countries occupied indicates a narrower range, while more countries indicates a more widespread species.


Estimated Abundance

Relative abundance based on number of AntMaps records per species (this species within the purple bar). Fewer records (to the left) indicates a less abundant/encountered species while more records (to the right) indicates more abundant/encountered species.



Longino (2007) - Azteca gnava occurs in the canopy of wet to moist forest habitats, where it forms ant gardens. Ant gardens are moderately abundant in Costa Rica, usually in the canopy of wet to moist forest, and often in trees overhanging streams or river margins. Costa Rican ant gardens are formed by a number of species, including Odontomachus panamensis (in parabiotic association with Crematogaster carinata), Crematogaster jardinero, Crematogaster longispina, Pheidole violacea, Azteca gnava, and A. nigra.

Azteca gnava ant gardens are large and their associated epiphytes usually appear dense and well established (e.g. robust Aechmea (Bromeliaceae) plants, dense mats of Peperomia (Piperaceae), hemiepiphytic Coussapoa). In Corcovado National Park, Costa Rica, A. gnava ant gardens often have abundant growth of Peperomia macrostachya and Aechmea tillandsioides var. kienastii. Colonies usually occur as one or more large central nests and numerous smaller satellite nests, forming an “archipelago” of ant gardens. Larger nests may be over 50cm diameter. Invariably, large populations of coccoid Hemiptera are sheltered beneath the ant gardens, attached to the supporting branch of the host tree and sometimes on the epiphytes on the nest. Ant brood can be found dispersed throughout the gardens.

Queens were unknown prior to this study and they are very rarely encountered. In the one case in which I observed a colony queen, it inhabited the central and largest ant garden. Very occasionally alate queens are taken in Malaise traps. On Barro Colorado Island, Panama, I collected an alate queen flying in the forest at 1700hrs.

Ant Gardens

This species is known to form ant gardens (i.e., they are able to initiate ant gardens or are restricted to ant gardens) (Campbell et al., 2022; Morales-Linares et al., 2017).



The following information is derived from Barry Bolton's Online Catalogue of the Ants of the World.

  • gnava. Azteca paraensis r. gnava Forel, 1906d: 241 (s.w.) COSTA RICA.
    • Longino, 2007: 33 (q.).
    • Subspecies of paraensis: Forel, 1908b: 62.
    • Status as species: Forel, 1912h: 49; Kempf, 1972a: 32; Shattuck, 1994: 18; Bolton, 1995b: 78; Longino, 2007: 34 (redescription); Branstetter & Sáenz, 2012: 253.
    • Senior synonym of rossi: Longino, 2007: 34.
    • Senior synonym of surubrensis: Longino, 2007: 34.
    • Current subspecies: nominal plus cayennensis.
  • rossi. Azteca ulei subsp. rossi Forel, 1909a: 251 (w.) MEXICO (no state data).
    • Subspecies of ulei: Emery, 1913a: 35; Wheeler, W.M. 1942: 247; Kempf, 1972a: 35; Shattuck, 1994: 28; Bolton, 1995b: 79.
    • Junior synonym of gnava: Longino, 2007: 34.
  • surubrensis. Azteca gnava var. surubrensis Forel, 1912h: 49.
    • [First available use of Azteca paraensis subsp. gnava var. surubrensis Forel, 1908b: 62 (w.) PANAMA; unavailable (infrasubspecific) name.]
    • As unavailable (infrasubspecific) name: Emery, 1913a: 34.
    • Subspecies of gnava: Kempf, 1972a: 32; Shattuck, 1994: 18; Bolton, 1995b: 79.
    • Junior synonym of gnava: Longino, 2007: 34.

Unless otherwise noted the text for the remainder of this section is reported from the publication that includes the original description.



Longino (2007) - (n=14): HLA 1.24 (1.00–1.44), HW 1.29 (1.01–1.47), SL 0.94 (0.81–1.01), CI 105 (101–109), SI 77 (70–85).

Palpal formula 6,4; middle and hind tibia with prominent pectinate apical spur; dorsal surface of mandible smooth and shining near masticatory margin, grading to microareolate and dull at base, with moderately abundant small piligerous puncta, setae in puncta short, erect, larger puncta with long setae near masticatory margin; medial and lateral clypeal lobes at about same level; head with strongly convex sides, strongly cordate posterior margin; in lateral profile pronotum evenly sloping, slightly convex, mesonotum more strongly convex, forming separate convexity; posteroventral lobe of petiole well developed, deep; scape with abundant erect setae, length of setae about one half to equal to maximum width of scape; mid and hind tibia with abundant erect setae, longest setae about one half to two thirds maximum width of tibia; side of head with 2–5 erect setae irregularly distributed along side; posterior margin of head with abundant long erect setae; pronotum, mesonotum, and dorsal face of propodeum with abundant long setae, those on dorsal face of propodeum sometimes shorter, sparser, less erect than those on pronotum and mesonotum; most of body light to dark brown.


Longino (2007) - (n=5): HLA 2.19 (2.18–2.20), HW 2.37 (2.33–2.47), SL 1.14 (1.11–1.20), CI 108 (107–113), SI 52 (50–55).

Palpal formula 6,4; ocelli small; middle and hind tibia with prominent pectinate apical spur; dorsal surface of mandible with abundant piligerous puncta, setae in puncta a combination of longer erect setae and shorter subdecumbent setae, interspaces between puncta faintly microareolate with varying development of roughened, acicular sculpture; medial and lateral clypeal lobes at about same level; head with convex sides, posterior margin strongly cordate; petiolar node in lateral view varying from triangular to flattened and scale-like at apex; posteroventral lobe of petiole deep, with posterior margin forming a concave or vertical surface, meeting tergum anterior to posterior limit of posterior tergal lobe (Fig. 1D, 5); scape with abundant erect setae, about as long as one half to two thirds maximum width of scape; middle and hind tibia with abundant erect setae, longest of these about as long as one half maximum width of tibia (MTSC 20–40); side of head with 0–1 erect setae near mandibular insertion, lacking elsewhere; posterior margin of head with abundant long erect setae; pronotum with erect setae on anterior margin and posterior margin, leaving bare space medially; mesoscutum, scutellum, and propodeum with abundant erect setae; petiolar node rimmed with erect pubescence and irregular longer erect setae, 2–3 pairs of erect setae usually extending above apex in profile, posterior border of sternal lobe of petiole with dense layer of erect setae of irregular lengths; gastral terga with moderately abundant long erect setae; almost entire body uniform dark red brown, lighter orange brown around antennal fossa.

Type Material

Longino (2007) - Syntype workers: Costa Rica (Biolley) (in an abandoned termite nest); and “Surubrés, touffe d'orchidée, dans un nid de termites”; and “San Mateo, racines de goyavier (le meme)” Musee d'Histoire Naturelle Genève (examined, one Costa Rica (Biolley) worker here designated LECTOTYPE).


References based on Global Ant Biodiversity Informatics

  • Branstetter M. G. and L. Sáenz. 2012. Las hormigas (Hymenoptera: Formicidae) de Guatemala. Pp. 221-268 in: Cano E. B. and J. C. Schuster. (eds.) 2012. Biodiversidad de Guatemala. Volumen 2. Guatemala: Universidad del Valle de Guatemala, iv + 328 pp
  • Dattilo W. et al. 2019. MEXICO ANTS: incidence and abundance along the Nearctic-Neotropical interface. Ecology
  • Emery C. 1913. Hymenoptera. Fam. Formicidae. Subfam. Dolichoderinae. Genera Insectorum 137: 1-50.
  • Fernández, F. and S. Sendoya. 2004. Lista de las hormigas neotropicales. Biota Colombiana Volume 5, Number 1.
  • Forel A. 1906. Fourmis néotropiques nouvelles ou peu connues. Annales de la Société Entomologique de Belgique 50: 225-249.
  • Forel A. 1908. Fourmis de Costa-Rica récoltées par M. Paul Biolley. Bulletin de la Société Vaudoise des Sciences Naturelles 44: 35-72.
  • Forel A. 1912. Formicides néotropiques. Part V. 4me sous-famille Dolichoderinae Forel. Mémoires de la Société Entomologique de Belgique. 20: 33-58.
  • Franco W., N. Ladino, J. H. C. Delabie, A. Dejean, J. Orivel, M. Fichaux, S. Groc, M. Leponce, and R. M. Feitosa. 2019. First checklist of the ants (Hymenoptera: Formicidae) of French Guiana. Zootaxa 4674(5): 509-543.
  • Kempf, W.W. 1972. Catalago abreviado das formigas da regiao Neotropical (Hym. Formicidae) Studia Entomologica 15(1-4).
  • 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: 1-63
  • Longino J. et al. ADMAC project. Accessed on March 24th 2017 at
  • Shattuck S. O. 1994. Taxonomic catalog of the ant subfamilies Aneuretinae and Dolichoderinae (Hymenoptera: Formicidae). University of California Publications in Entomology 112: i-xix, 1-241.
  • Vásquez-Bolaños M. 2011. Lista de especies de hormigas (Hymenoptera: Formicidae) para México. Dugesiana 18: 95-133