Wednesday, October 26, 2011

The Potter Wasp and its Jug-shaped Mud Nest

A potter wasp fashioned this miniature clay pot.
Mud Nest of the Potter Wasp
 This potter wasp's mud nest is only about the size of a small marble.
 The wasp nest picture below was taken on my skidloader's radiator.
   Besides branches and machinery, I've also seen the potter wasp nests placed in wood piles and in out-of-the-way places on buildings.
   With these fascinating wasp pots showing up here and there, it's  interesting to know about the potter wasp life cycle...
Potter Wasp Nest
 and nice to know wasp that makes these clay pots. 

 The potter wasp pictures below show the jug builders nectaring on small white asters.
Eumenes fraternus - Potter Wasp
 The adult wasps are often seen on flowers. The female wasps are also seen transporting mud balls, making nests, or hunting caterpillars.
A potter wasp - Eumenes fraternus
The potter wasps have at least two generations each summer/fall season.
The potter wasp...
and the wasp pot...a potter wasp's pottery masterpiece.
Wasp Pot.... "thrown" by a potter wasp
   Just think, if I took some mud and shaped this little urn I'm sure the next time it rained my work would disintegrate.  The wasp must have some special ingredient, like her saliva, that helps the mud keep together over the winter.
What happens inside that clay pot?

   After the female wasp shapes the mud nest, she places some paralyzed caterpillars and an egg inside the jug and then seals the opening.  When the egg hatches, the wasp larva consumes the caterpillars. Then it spins a cocoon within the mud cell.  In the photo on the left, I have split open the jug to reveal the wasp larva.  The larva is protruding slightly from its cocoon.
   In the photo on the left, the wasp larva has been removed from its cocoon.  The cocoon is pictured between the larva and the two halves of the jug nest.  This nest was from the fall generation.  The larva will spend the winter in its cocoon awaiting spring when it will pupate ,

   Later, the new adult will emerge as a distinctive looking potter wasp that hunts caterpillars, sustains itself on nectar, and does a good job making pottery.
   There are many types of wasps, but although I'd rather not have any nasty kinds around, the solitary wasps like these potter wasps are totally okay.  In fact, they are genuinely welcome in my back yard.  I mean, who doesn't mind a few little urns sitting around?


  1. Was this the one (mud nest) I saw up close at the family reunion?

    This is so amazing.

    I've been enjoying the last several posts with the earthworms and leaf faces. I've been talking about it to whomever will listen. ;) It's so neat being taken to a whole new level with nature. Seriously.

  2. I'm going to be keeping my eyes open for these Dana. I seem to miss so much in the world around me ...

  3. Bevy,
    Yes, that mud nest is the very one I found in Bucks County. Incidentally, the wasp pictures are from Franklin County... I was strolling around a friend's yard and happened to notice the wasp. Seems the ones in my backyard were always encountered when I wasn't carrying my camera.
    Glad you are enjoying the posts.

  4. Sybil,
    Yeah I know, I miss stuff too. That's probably best though... I'm always lagging behind on a hike as it is. Try travelling and not passing anything up..."Woah! Did you see that patch of Goldenrod and Purple Asters?" or, eeerrrchh, "There's a huge mushroom back there!"

  5. Awesome!There's absolutely no end to the wonders of nature!

  6. Anonymous6/22/2014

    Thank You!
    I've seen this beautiful wasp in my yard and just found this remarkable little nest. Now I know the two go together!