JULY
1991

 

 

 

By
Tom Turpin
 
Professor of
Entomology
Purdue University

 

 

 

 

 

7-25-91

THEIR NAMES ARE MUD DAUBERS

Their names may be mud, but you won't see them slinging any.  In fact, the mothers-to-be mud daubers carefully construct cozy nests for their young.

The adult female wasp frequents creek banks or puddles, gathering mud in her mouthparts and carrying it to the nest site.  There she fashions the mud into a nest characteristic of her species.

The pipe-organ mud dauber forms nests in series of 3- to 4-inch tubes constructed side by side in a way that resembles the pipes of a church organ.  Each pipe of the nest contains cells which are provisioned with food such as spiders and caterpillars.

For those mud daubers choosing small spiders as meals for their young, as many as 20 can be placed in a cell.  Each spider is stung by the wasp and paralyzed.  Once the food is in place, the wasp lays an egg and the cell is sealed.

The newly-hatched wasp larva feeds on the spiders until it is fully developed.  Then the larva forms a pupal cell and changes into a wasp.  The following spring, the new wasp chews a hole through the mud walls of the nest and emerges.  Once out, the adult wasp begins the age-old ritual of “mud daubing” a new nest.

While mud daubers sometimes act as if they might sting humans, they seldom do.  They are peaceful neighbors who build their nests in our attics, garages and barns.  Mud daubers even have been known to build nests in unused items such as sleds, boots, and picnic baskets.

By the time the young emerge, the parent will be dead – a victim of old age, hard work or the first freeze.  Mud daubers work very hard to provide for their offspring even though they will never live long enough to see them.  For mud daubers, the words “generation gap” are appropriate.

 

Writer: Tom Turpin
Editor: Olivia Maddox