Mud daubers prey on pesky spiders


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A mud dauber meticulously builds a nest.

Viera Voice Photo

Spinning tales about mud daubers, which are solitary wasps. They do not live in colonies, as compared to social wasps such as yellow jackets.

Mud daubers measure approximately a half-inch to 1 inch in length and display a thread-like narrow waist (petiole).

Activity occurs in warmer weather. Brood nests are constructed with cells of compact mud. Unsightly, they often are situated in hard-to-reach, protected locations around the home such as porch ceilings or eaves.

It is suggested to remove nests promptly and at night while the wasps are not as active. Unfortunately, some destroyed nests are relentlessly rebuilt.

Sites might be occupied year after year, encompassing large numbers of nests. In addition, reproduction might occur more than once a year. Also, other insects might occupy abandoned nests.

Nests vary by species. The black and yellow mud dauber nest contains a series of cylindrical cells. This cluster, around the size of a lemon, is protectively plastered with mud.

The organ pipe mud dauber is shiny black. It builds cells in a series of tubes resembling organ pipes. The metallic-blue mud dauber can build a mud nest, but might select an abandoned nest of the black and yellow mud dauber and remodel with water.

Industriously, the female constructs cells. The male mostly guards.

With her mouth, the female scoops mud into balls (often from a rain puddle) and daubs layers with her mandibles — like bricklaying. While working, bursts of loud buzzing is emitted. A cell is completed in approximately one hour and is sealed with a mud plug.

Each cell contains one egg deposited on prey, often spiders. Actually, metallic-blue mud daubers prefer black widow spiders. Caterpillars and flies are sometimes provided. To avoid decomposition, the female does not kill prey before placing it in the cell. Instead, she stings and paralyzes the prey, which will nourish future larva.  There is around a one-year span between the egg and maturity.

Incidentally, a communal nest is possible, with small groups of female wasps each creating their own cells. Consider the “songs” of a buzzing chorus during construction!

Only the female dauber is capable of stinging, but she is normally not aggressive. Generally, she does not defend her nest and prefers to flee. Yet, she might retaliate with a sting if manhandled. The male only bluffs.

Recurrently, adults are observed in gardens seeking food, such as nectar or body fluids from spiders. For example, the black and yellow mud dauber is attracted to Queen Anne’s lace nectar.

Since nectar might intoxicate, some daubers become confused or belligerent and in need of rest. Indeed, after a day of seeking and consuming nectar, metallic-blue mud dauber males have been known to congregate and sleep.

Seemingly, mud daubers are rarely threatening to humans.

However, they might generate air disasters when blocking strategic places with mud. A pitot tube could cause faulty air speed readings. Still, they naturally control pest insects, especially spiders.