Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Mud Dauber Wasp: Beautiful Persistence

Here in Florida we have a lot of interesting flora and fauna. One particular insect that I've come to admire and enjoy (as strange as it may seem) is the mud dauber wasp. Mud dauber wasps are solitary creatures, so while you may see several flying about your property, they never gather or create communal nests. They are very industrious which becomes clear when you see the mud cells that they build. A single female will build a collection of little tubes, one on top of the other, and in each she will place a few (or more) paralyzed spiders and an egg. Then she seals it up and moves on the to next. After creating a series of these, she will fly away. Her eggs slowly develop until the young wasps are full size, at which point they consume the paralyzed spiders for initial sustenance before breaking free from their cell and flying out into the wide world.

A mud dauber "village" with a cell being built
Credit: O. Destrades

I have spent quite a lot of time observing these wasps as they tend to their little "villages." We currently have one in the upper corner of our front door, and I've watched with great admiration as a single cocoon-like mud tube grew into three, then five, then eight. She finally stopped when she reached somewhere around the 12-mark. She would fly back and forth developing layer after earthen layer - I could even see the ripples in the walls of each little structure, evidence of each trip she made with fresh mud, like rings of a tree. I would see an open cavern, and could even make out the faint impression of spider legs within. Then later in the evening as I would come or go, I would see that the hole had been sealed, and she was now prepared to work on the next.

Mud Dauber wasps are not aggressive at all, and prefer to keep the peace rather than attack (unless clearly threatened). This is why I treat them as friendly neighbors for the duration of their stay at my doorway. And once all of the wasps have flown the nest, I will harvest what remains, crumble it into a fine powder, and store it away for use in future rootwork.

Mud dauber nests are often utilized for work focused on fidelity in love or commerce, such as attracting and keeping clients to a business, specifically because these wasps always return to the same place to build their mud villages. Even for practical purposes mud dauber nests come in handy: you can powder and carefully filter the mud from a dauber's nest and use it to help cure and prevent diaper rash in infants.

If you should like to harvest your own mud dauber nest, just remember to be mindful of ecology, and try to be sure that the wasps have abandoned it first.

3 comments:

  1. I've never heard from these wasps before but they do seems very special creatures indeed. I do love it how nature has given each creature its own ingenious way of building their nests

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    1. I don't remember seeing them much in the northern part of the country, but down here in the south, they abound! It is very cool how each creature has such a unique way of making a home, and nurturing their young.

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