Mud dauber

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Mud dauber
Sceliphron caementarium MHNT Profil.jpg
Black and yellow mud dauber
Sceliphron caementarium
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Arthropoda
Class: Insecta
Order: Hymenoptera
Suborder: Apocrita
Superfamily: Apoidea
Families

Some Sphecidae and Crabronidae

Mud dauber (sometimes called "dirt dauber," "dirt digger," "dirt dobber," "dirt diver", or "mud wasp") is a name commonly applied to a number of wasps from either the family Sphecildae or Crabronidae that build their nests from mud. Mud daubers, as they belong to different families, are variable in appearance, but most are long, slender wasps about 1-inch (25 mm) in length;.[1] The name refers to the nests that are made by the female wasps, which consist of mud molded into place by the wasp's mandibles. Mud daubers are not aggressive and stings are very uncommon.

Nests[edit]

New organ pipe mud dauber wasp nest showing different muds gathered at different places.

The organ pipe mud dauber, one of many mud daubers in the family Crabronidae, as the name implies, builds nests in the shape of a cylindrical tube resembling an organ pipe or pan flute. Organ-pipe mud daubers build their very distinctive and elegant tubes on vertical or horizontal faces of walls, cliffs, bridges, overhangs and shelter caves or other structures.

The nest of the black and yellow mud dauber, one of many mud daubers in the family Sphecidae, is composed of a series of cylindrical cells that are plastered over to form a smooth nest about the size of a lemon. Black-and-yellow mud daubers build a simple, one-cell, urn-shaped nest that is attached to crevices, cracks and corners. Each nest contains one egg. Usually, they clump several nests together and plaster more mud over them.

The metallic-blue mud dauber, another sphecid, forgoes building a nest altogether and simply uses the abandoned nests of the other two species and preys primarily on spiders, including black widow spiders.[2] Blue mud daubers frequently appropriate old nests of black-and-yellow mud daubers. They carry water to them and recondition them for their own purposes. The two species commonly occupy the same barns, porches, or other nest sites.

All three species may occupy the same sites year after year, creating large numbers of nests. Mud dauber nests can last many years in protected locations and are often used as nest sites by other kinds of wasps and bees, as well as other types of insects.

One disadvantage to making nests is that most, if not all, of the nest-maker’s offspring are concentrated in one place, making them highly vulnerable to predation. Once a predator finds a nest, it can plunder it cell by cell. A variety of parasitic wasps, ranging from extremely tiny chalcidoid wasps to larger, bright green chrysidid wasps attack mud dauber nests. They pirate provisions and offspring as food for their own offspring.

Food[edit]

Like most other wasps, mud daubers are predators. The females not only build the nests, but also they hunt to provision them. However, pipe-organ mud dauber males have reportedly brought spiders to the nest, and they aid in nest guarding.

Black and yellow mud daubers primarily prey on relatively small, colorful spiders, such as crab spiders (and related groups), orb weavers and some jumping spiders. They usually find them in and around vegetation. Blue mud daubers are the main predator of the black and brown widow spiders.

Adults of both sexes frequently drink flower nectar, but they stock their nests with spiders, which serve as food for their offspring. Like connoisseurs, they prefer particular kinds of spiders, and particular sizes of spiders for their larders. Instead of stocking a nest cell with one or two large spiders, mud daubers cram as many as two dozen small spiders into a nest cell. They appear to know exactly what they are hunting for, and where to find it.

Pipe-organ mud daubers generally provision their nests with various kinds of orb weavers, but their diets includes other kinds of spiders, as well. Blue mud daubers prefer immature black widow spiders and their relatives. They hunt them in dry areas, such as outbuildings, rocky areas and stone piles.

To capture a spider, the wasp grabs it and stings it into submission.[citation needed] The venom from the sting does not kill the spider, but paralyzes and preserves it so it can be transported and stored in the nest cell until consumed by the larva. A mud dauber usually lays its egg on the prey item and then seals it into the nest cell with a mud cap.[1] It then builds another cell or nest. Missouri’s mud daubers generally have two generations per year. The young survive the winter inside the nest.

Involvement in Florida Commuter Airlines accident[edit]

On September 12, 1980, Florida Commuter Airlines flight 65 crashed en route to Freeport, Bahamas killing all 34 passengers and crew. The cause was determined to be due in part to a malfunctioning air speed indicator caused by mud dauber nests that were improperly cleared from the aircraft's pitot tubes.

Involvement in Birgenair Flight 301 accident[edit]

On February 6, 1996, Birgenair Flight 301, a 757 jet flying from Puerto Plata in the Dominican Republic, crashed into the Atlantic Ocean. All 13 crew members and 176 passengers were killed. A key part of the accident was a blocked pitot tube, a component which measures outside air pressure through small tubes on the outside of the aircraft and displays this as the plane's speed. Although the tubes were never recovered from the ocean floor, it was discovered that the plane had been sitting on the tarmac for almost 3 weeks with the pitot tubes not covered as they should have been. Investigators believe a colony of black and yellow mud daubers got into the tube and built their cylindrical nests inside, causing faulty air speed readings which were a large part of the crash. This species also brought down another plane in Washington during 1982.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b Milne, Lorus; Milne, Margery (August 2003) [Originally Published October 1st 1980]. Field Guide to Insects & Spiders. New York: Alfred A Knopf, Inc. pp. 844–845. ISBN 0-394-50763-0. 
  2. ^ B. M. Drees & J. Jackman (1999). "Mud Daubers". Field Guide to Texas Insects. Texas A&M University.