Thursday, December 2, 2010

Wasp Mud Balls

What's up with a wasp making a mud ball?
As I mentioned yesterday, these wasps make mud balls and fly away with them.  This picture shows a wasp with a mud ball held in its front pair of legs and preparing to take off.

   Last night we had to flee our home because the river came over its banks and our home became an island.  So we headed for higher ground and spent the night with friends.  There on the wall (see picture below) was a clump of mud that looks as if someone threw it up against the wall and it stuck.  You may find these mud lumps on your rafters or under the eves of your garden shed.  Look for them where its "high and dry".  These are the mud nests constructed by the Black-and-yellow Mud Dauber Wasp (Sceliphron caementarium). That's what's up with a wasp making mud balls.   Those mud balls are part of a fascinating life cycle.
Inconspicuous mud clump
   Here is the foundation of a Black-and-yellow Mud Dauber nest.  As you can see, she constructs parallel tubes.  Each tube is about the size of a AAA battery.  The mud tubes are constructed  side by side and also may have another row stacked on top.

The foundation of the mud nest of a Black-and-yellow Mud Dauber
The wasp places a mud blanket over the bundle of tubes which results in the finished nest looking like just a clump of mud.
The finished product - The mud nest of the Black-and-yellow Mud Dauber

 Let's pull back the blanket!  
Triple barrel
 This particular nest had three tubes.  The top one has remnants of a reddish brown cocoon.  The hole on the right is the escape hole indicating a successful  hatch of a wasp.  The hole on the left is one I made to see the contents of an unsuccessful tube.

Cross section of the wasp's mud nest
By opening up the unsuccessful tube in cross section more of the work of the industrious wasp is exposed.  She filled the tube with spiders.  This tube contained 13 spiders.

Tube contents
   The wasp hunted these spiders, paralyzed them, and stuffed them in the tubes for a food supply for the larvae that would hath from her eggs.  In this nest, two of the eggs hatched, fed on the spiders, pupated, and emerged as a new generation of wasps to start the busy mud balling, spider hunting life cycle all over again. The third tube was a dud and the spiders dried up.  Quite a story lies hidden in a mud ball. 

You might like to see the series of pictures I took of the Black-and-yellow Mud Dauber making mud balls to build a nest.
Here is a post on a Black-and-yellow Mud Dauber Wasp using mud balls to build her mud nest

1 comment:

  1. I have a few of these for neighbours. They are not aggressive. they are somewhat docile. I give them their room and they have never bothered me. I appreciate their insect hunting, too.