Now that summer’s here, it’s time to trade in those skis for shades, and enjoy the warm weather.
But summer isn’t always sunshine and rainbows, thanks to other pests that relish the season, too. No, we’re not talking about your neighbours, but a different kind of ‘buzz kill’.
It’s wasp season! Yellow jackets, paper wasps, and mud daubers, all species that’re plentiful in Canada, emerge to ruin picnics and scare children.
Between the three species of wasps, perhaps none are more peculiar than the mud dauber. While they’re wasps in a biological sense, they possess certain characteristics and tendencies that make them unique, even amongst their peers.
To get familiar with this little-known clique of wasps, here’s everything you need to know about them (well, the cool stuff anyway).
Getting to Know the Mud Dauber.
Scientific Name: Family Schecidae & Crabonidae
There are a number of different wasps under the Schecidae and Crabonidae family classifications that are considered mud daubers. They have a variation of names – they’ve been referred to as dirt daubers, dirt diggers, dirt divers, and mud wasps, amongst others.
Since there are so many subspecies of mud daubers, it’s difficult to describe their appearance. Most however, are long, slim wasps (about one-inch in length), with narrow waists, and are either shiny black or metallic blue in colour. Some species carry the classic yellow markings, while others have unusual green ones.
What Makes Mud Daubers Unique?
The accessibly named mud dauber is as advertised – they’re all about that mud. These dirt diggers use mud collected by females to construct their nests, rather than wood and saliva like a traditional wasps’ nest.
Each subspecies of mud dauber have dissimilar methods of utilizing mud to craft their home. The organ pipe mud dauber, for example, build distinct tubes that – surprise – resemble the cylindrical cells you’d find on an organ. Built side by side, they can vary in colour based on where the mud was taken from for that particular cell.
Other mud daubers, like the black and yellow dauber, build cells that they plaster over with mud, forming a smooth outer layer about the size of a lemon. The mud is taken from the source by female wasps, rolled into a ball, and then molded into a nest with the mud dauber’s mandibles. It sounds tedious, but a wasp cell can be crafted in about an hour.
The metallic blue mud dauber doesn’t even bother rolling around in the mud. These subspecies squatters forgo the nest building process altogether, opting to move into abandoned black and yellow mud dauber nests.
One other distinct trait separates the mud dauber from its aggressive, stinger-happy relatives: they’re solitary insects. Unlike yellow jackets or paper wasps, mud daubers are lone wolves; they don’t fly in swarms or live in large colonies. They keep to themselves, and hunt their prey solo (typically other insects), meaning they’ll rarely get aggressive, and even more rarely use their stinger if they aren’t looking for food. Even the patented mud nests they build are one-wasp jobs.
Other Mud Dauber Facts.
Besides those two unique characteristics of mud daubers, these are other obscure facts about the lonely wasps:
- They live on a spider-steady diet. If you have a rampant spider population, you might consider hiring some mud dauber cronies to clean up the mess. Mud wasps almost exclusively prey on spiders, paralyzing them and bringing them back to their nests. They’ll stuff dead spiders into larvae cells so their offspring have a warm meal to wake up to. The nest cells are more like nest crypts.
- ‘I’ll do it tomorrow.’ When it comes to constructing a nest, female daubers refuse to work the night shift. If the nest isn’t built up by sundown, they’ll simply seal up what they have completed on the nest, and continue the next day.
- Quality over quantity. Mud daubers don’t rely on superfecundity as a way to persist as a species. Instead of producing large numbers of offspring in the hopes that some will survive to carry on the mud wasp legacy, one female may only lay 15 eggs in her life. An entire mud cell per nest is dedicated to a solitary egg, which becomes pupae in three weeks, and then a cocoon until spring. The singular cells are sealed off by the female, and are sometimes guarded by male mud daubers. Rather than numbers, mud wasps rely on care and concealment for their young.
Mud daubers aren’t particularly harmful pests – they’re actually kind of helpful in killing off other troublesome insects like spiders – though they should still be removed from your property. The problem lies in their unique nests, making mud wasps a ‘gateway’ insect. Other problematic pests love living in those sturdy mud nests, making them fine habitats for more aggressive, stinging pests you won’t want near your home or family. Discouraging these dirt diggers from nesting near your home will keep additional unwanted pests away.
Just because mud daubers are solitary creatures, it doesn’t mean you have to be. Getting rid of mud daubers, or their more aggressive relatives like the yellow jacket or paper wasp, can be tricky to do correctly and safely, so it’s best left to experts like us.