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Get To Know Your Friendly Neighborhood Mud Dauber Wasps by sustainablyyours

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Get To Know Your Friendly Neighborhood Mud Dauber Wasps
<center>![IMG_1665.jpg](https://cdn.steemitimages.com/DQmY2rudcVKEADE96rLxcYfXjUDSpsPWvgtDfr51VJs4yU8/IMG_1665.jpg)<h6>Original Image</h6></center>

One of my favorite places to visit as a kid was my memaw’s house. It was tucked away down a hill off of an old, rarely traveled gravel road. Her back yard was a forest. In fact, her entire house, with the exception of the small driveway that led up to the place, was surrounded by woods. I would spend the entire day roaming the woods down in the holler, swinging from vines, and exploring.

I remember that my memaw wasn’t a big fan of air conditioning. She grew up without it and was just accustomed to hot weather. She was perfectly comfortable with the windows up, the front door open, and a box fan running, even on the hottest of Arkansas’ summer days. With open access to the house, it was inevitable that a few flying creepy crawlies would find their way indoors, but the ones I remember most were the wasps; but, perhaps that is due to the fact that I had an irrational fear of them. 

I remember frequently pointing them out yelling, “There’s a wasp! Kill it! Kill it!” But, 9 times out of 10, her response would be, “Oh, that’s just an ole dirt dauber. Leave it alone and it will leave you alone.” I was always pretty skeptical, so I made sure to give them a wide berth. Back then, I wasn’t observant enough to notice the differences between those aggressive, stinging wasps and the laid back group of wasps known as the mud daubers.

<center><h1>Mud Dauber Wasps</h1></center>Mud dauber wasps get their common moniker from their habit of building nests out of mud. They gather a mouthful of it in their mandibles and fashion it into a ball before carrying it back to a suitable nesting spot - usually some place protected from the weather. There, they create little mud structures with hollow tubes that will become the growing chambers for their young. You’ve probably seen one of them on the side of your shed or hiding away in a little nook or cranny around the house. They generally look something like this:

<center>![20190630_192056.jpg](https://cdn.steemitimages.com/DQmY5jvM7jubDZA4RVXMUqvBccsPTEtj5cSNuxxegkaj1Nd/20190630_192056.jpg)<h6>Original Image</h6></center>

There are many different species of mud dauber wasps [spanning 2 families with three genera](https://nature.mdc.mo.gov/discover-nature/field-guide/mud-daubers) within the order Hymenoptera. This article will focus on the three species most common to my area: the black-and-yellow mud dauber (Sceliphron caementarium), the organ pipe mud dauber (Trypoxylon politum), and the blue mud dauber (Chalybion californicum)

<h1>*Sceliphron caementarium* - The Black-And-Yellow Mud Dauber</h1>

<center>![12997462125_b739132004_o.jpg](https://cdn.steemitimages.com/DQmNzrh4dypSo5ZJ9vS1wow2JExFfs9j5dg42BUuc4NaoQ4/12997462125_b739132004_o.jpg)<h6>Image Credit: [black and yellow mud dauber](https://www.flickr.com/photos/dotun55/12997462125/): [dotun55](https://www.flickr.com/photos/dotun55/) - [(CC BY-SA 2.0)](https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/)</h6></center>

The black-and-yellow mud dauber can be found throughout the United States and even into extreme southern portions of Canada. As its common name indicates, this wasp is usually black [with varying degrees of yellow markings](https://bugguide.net/node/view/6610). It’s species name roughly translates to “mason” or “builder of walls”. 

[Females of the species are generally larger than the males](http://entnemdept.ufl.edu/creatures/MISC/WASPS/Sceliphron_caementarium.htm), measuring between 23 and 25 mm in length compared to about 21 mm for males. They can be easily distinguished from their more fierce cousins, paper wasps and hornets, [by the thin pedicel that connects the abdomen and thorax](http://entnemdept.ufl.edu/creatures/MISC/WASPS/Sceliphron_caementarium.htm). Females possess an ovipositor for depositing eggs, which doubles as a stinger. Since males have no need for an ovipositor, they also lack a stinger. But, while females of the species [are capable of giving a mildly painful sting](https://news.nationalgeographic.com/2016/06/insect-behavior-biology-science-book/), it isn’t all that common. Mud dauber wasp species are generally solitary nesters, so [the cost/benefit ratio strongly supports ***NOT*** stinging](http://somethingscrawlinginmyhair.com/2009/03/14/blue-mud-dauber-wasp/comment-page-3/) unless their life is on the line. Paper wasp species that live in a colony gain a benefit from being aggressive. They can send a few individuals out to fend off large animals that disturb the nest, and even if those individuals don’t make it back alive, the colony's offspring will live on. However, such a brazen attack by a solitary wasp species is too risky. It is better off abandoning that nest and living to create several more throughout the season. As a result, mud dauber wasps are some of the most chill wasp species that you will meet. Even if you encounter a rare swarm of them, you are not at all likely to be stung unless you attempt to handle one.

As an adult, *S. caementarium* feeds on flower nectar, making it a beneficial pollinator species. They [tend to prefer flowers from the family *Apiaceae*](https://www.amateuranthecologist.com/2016/08/sceliphron-caementarium.html), which includes carrots, Queen Anne’s lace, and the like. They have also been known to visit hummingbird feeders for an easy meal. But, when they’ve had their fill of nectar, it’s time to *get down to business*.

While the black-and-yellow mud dauber is a solitary species, [males and females are known to cooperate in the nest building process](https://www.heartspm.com/mud-daubers.php). The female does most of the work. She starts by finding a nice muddy spot to harvest her building materials from. She will revisit this site numerous times as she delivers small mouthful after small mouthful of mud back to her construction zone. In many cases, the male will stand guard at the location while the female is gone to ensure that other insects do not invade and lay eggs of their own.

With each return trip, she will use her tiny ball of mud to fashion a little bit more of her nest. For this species, the final product may contain up to 25 cylindrical cells arranged side by side as well as stacked vertically on top of each other to [form a ball about the size of a lemon](https://nature.mdc.mo.gov/discover-nature/field-guide/mud-daubers). 



She will begin with a single chamber, and once the structure is complete, she will go out on the hunt for spiders. *S. caementarium* tends to [focus primarily on orb weaving spiders](http://entnemdept.ufl.edu/creatures/MISC/WASPS/Sceliphron_caementarium.htm). When she finds one, she will deliver a very precise sting to the subesophageal ganglion that will permanently paralyze the spider. Paralysis serves to keep the spider fresh for the future larva to munch on and to ensure that the spider is unable to injure the wasp’s offspring. The mother will then carry her capture back to the nest, lay and egg on it, and stuff it into the tube. She will continue these hunting trips until the chamber is full, sometimes accruing up to two dozen spiders; however, she will only have deposited an egg on the one. Now, with her future offspring in the chamber and plenty of stay-fresh, paralyzed spiders for it to feed on, she will seal the tube and begin construction on the next. 

<center>https://youtu.be/ymGm1UODfNE</center><center><h5>Original Video
I was unable to find *C. caementarium* collecting prey, but the process is similar to this video of *C. californicum*.<h5></center>

<h1>*Trypoxylon politum* - The Organ Pipe Mud Dauber</h1>

<center>![256px-Pipe_Organ_Mud_Dauber_with_Spider_-_Trypoxylon_politum,_Leesylvania_State_Park,_Woodbridge,_Virginia.jpg](https://cdn.steemitimages.com/DQmPLC9ahxi6nMp8giT4Y3bfyGBwBgReu8QK6vpQHg6FrMJ/256px-Pipe_Organ_Mud_Dauber_with_Spider_-_Trypoxylon_politum,_Leesylvania_State_Park,_Woodbridge,_Virginia.jpg)<h6>[Image Credit](https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Pipe_Organ_Mud_Dauber_with_Spider_-_Trypoxylon_politum,_Leesylvania_State_Park,_Woodbridge,_Virginia.jpg): Judy Gallagher [CC BY 2.0](https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)</h6></center>

This species shares a lot of characteristics with *S. caementarium*, so I’ll start with a quick rundown of them. For starters, *T. politum* is a very docile wasp. Even if you are right next to her nest, she very unlikely to sting. She can be distinguished from less friendly species by the long pedicel, and she also makes her nest out of mud. But, there are some nuanced differences that we can talk about.

*T. politum* can measure [up to 3.9 - 5.1 mm](http://www.americaninsects.net/hy/trypoxylon-politum.html) in length. It is mostly black except for the bottom portion of the back legs, which are usually white or pale yellow. It is found throughout the eastern United States through the Great Plains states but is not as common in the western parts of North America.

*T. politum* builds her nest in a similar manner as *S. caementarium*, but the final product looks vastly different. Instead of building a lemon-shaped ball of mud, the pipe organ mud dauber makes a long tube of mud that is broken up into a series of cells lined up end-to-end. She may even build several of them in a side-by-side arrangement that resembles a pipe organ. Like the black-and-yellow mud dauber, *T. politum* also hunts down orb weaving spiders to fill her brooding cells with; however, she seems to key in on spiders [from just a couple of genera](https://pdfs.semanticscholar.org/9cdf/b05d7af9fe266f3fcb3396877bb56defd315.pdf): *Neoscona* and *Eustala* 

<center>![23311613936_c9b9b9521d_z.jpg](https://cdn.steemitimages.com/DQmcuBWzFbFPP66GWpwnMeKvzeQK47Kza7omcGYmJpz2ymW/23311613936_c9b9b9521d_z.jpg)<h6>[Pipe Organ Mud Dauber Nest](https://www.flickr.com/photos/86548370@N00/23311613936) by [Katja Schulz](https://www.flickr.com/photos/86548370@N00/with/23311613936/) - [(CC BY 2.0)](https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/)

<h1>*Chalybion californicum* - The Blue Mud Dauber</h1>

<center>![IMG_1666.jpg](https://cdn.steemitimages.com/DQmXzBKHXjYfyweeadJnhhc5VXRC7g4PZ9m4rHuuC5g8GNt/IMG_1666.jpg)<h6>Original Image</h6></center>

The blue mud dauber gets its name from the iridescent metallic blue sheen of its body. It can grow up to 10 - 23 mm in length and has a thin petiole connecting the thorax to the abdomen. 

Out of the three mud dauber species in this article, the blue mud dauber is probably the one you want around your house. Whereas the other two specialize in capturing harmless and beneficial orb weavers, this mud dauber [specializes in seeking out the venomous black widow spider](https://www.heartspm.com/mud-daubers.php). Sounds pretty good, doesn’t it?

Well, if you would like to entice a few of these ladies to stick around, you might try leaving the empty nests of other mud dauber species up for next year. While *C. californicum* is capable of making her own nest, she is usually just as happy to [remodel old nests](https://www.heartspm.com/mud-daubers.php) or even to [steal the nests of *S. caementarium*](https://www.fs.fed.us/wildflowers/pollinators/pollinator-of-the-month/blue-mud-wasp.shtml). She will use water to wet the dirt sealing the entrance to a cell, remove all of the spiders and larvae of the *S. Caementarium, and refill it with her own larvae and spiders before resealing the tube. 

<h1>Dissecting A Mud Dauber’s Nest</h1>We had a few mud daubers build their nests in some inconvenient places, this summer. They *had* to be removed, so I decided to crack them open and see what was inside, and what I found was extremely cool. Each tube held up to a couple dozen beautiful spiders. What was really neat was the fact that they were only paralyzed. It is not often that you get to handle live spiders to study them without fear of being bitten. And, I enjoyed being able to see several species of spiders that I have around the yard that I wasn’t familiar with.

[I began taking some macro photos of the spiders](https://steemit.com/nature/@sustainablyyours/what-s-inside-of-a-mud-dauber-s-nest), and I noticed something strange on one of them.

<center>![20190630_190836.jpg](https://cdn.steemitimages.com/DQmRu5Hr5JnqqLQsUTMJuAQdUJynwjsAcbwMv9vHcHfNNvK/20190630_190836.jpg)<h6>Original Image</h6></center>

It was the tiny wasp larva that had latched onto its first meal. Then, I noticed another, larger larva enjoying a delicious spider. This one was large enough that you could *see* the food moving through its digestive system.

<center>https://youtu.be/mshgYm5mAJU<h6>Original Video</h6></center>

Finally, I found a fully formed adult that had been unable to release itself from its capsule and had died. It appeared to be of the SPECIES species.

<h1>In Conclusion</h1>Not all wasps are aggressive, and some are even beneficial to your garden and to the safety of your kids! So, if you happen to find mud dauber nests around your property, think about leaving them alone. I get it, some of them end up is unsightly spots on the house or in places where they can cause damage (there have actually been plane crashes blamed on mud dauber nests); but, if they are not in the way, just leave them be.

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@delishtreats ·
I'm not a big fan of spiders but I feel sorry for them. I wonder if they feel pain when they are paralyzed. It is very cruel process. And then you have a larvae that is munching on your while you're still alive! Poor things.. 

You mentioned some interesting facts that I didn't know. Generally I'm not a big friend with wasps as it happened to me that one of them was peacefully sitting on my leg and I didn't mind until it bit me! And it hurt like hell and then I had a big irritated lump on there for almost a week. It's not one of my most pleasant memories I must say :)

Thank you for sharing and have a good day!
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@hlezama ·
Great post. Informative and fun.
I grew up in a place where these creatures were very common. We would welcome the masons because there were plenty of poisonous kinds around and those did give us a hard time.
Amazing first picture.
I have always been fascinating at these creatures tenacity in building their nests, the technique, the patience in fnishing them, and even thought the nests do not look as elegant and symetrical as some bees's, they are impressive and can occupy a lot of space in a house.
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@wisejg ·
I have learned something new today about these living beings. I like to find this type of post. and more when they are accompanied with images. It's like reading an article about the animal planet.
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@fredkese ·
Learnt a lot of new things today. When I watch movies, I hear of wasps but I never tried to find out about them. We have some of the wasps around and we call all of them here. Now I know the right name.

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