Mud dauber

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Mud dauber
Sceliphron caementarium MHNT Profil.jpg
Black and yellow mud dauber
Sceliphron caementarium
Scientific classification

Some Sphecidae and Crabronidae

Black and yellow Mud Dauber.

Mud dauber (or "mud wasp" or "dirt dauber") is a name commonly applied to a number of wasps from either the family Sphecidae or Crabronidae that build their nests from mud. Mud daubers belong to different families and are variable in appearance. Most resemble 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 normally aggressive, but can become belligerent when threatened. Stings are uncommon.


New organ pipe mud dauber wasp nest, showing different muds gathered from different places

The organ pipe mud dauber, one of many mud daubers in the family Crabronidae, builds nests in the shape of a cylindrical tube resembling an organ pipe or pan flute. Common sites include vertical or horizontal faces of walls, cliffs, bridges, overhangs and shelter caves or other structures.

Mud nest of mud dauber, Bhopal, India

The nest of the black and yellow mud dauber is a simple, one-cell, urn-shaped nest that is attached to crevices, cracks and corners. Each nest contains one egg. Usually several nests are clumped together and covered in mud. The metallic-blue mud dauber, another sphecid, builds mud nests, but occasionally refurbishes the abandoned nests of other species; it preys primarily on spiders.[2] 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.


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. Mud daubers prefer particular kinds and 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.

To capture a spider, the wasp grabs it and stings it. 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.


There are many species of mud dauber wasp. Here are some characteristics of mud daubers of the genus Sceliphron.

Sceliphron laetum[edit]

Face covered by dense golden hair; no yellow integumental patch on lower face. Thorax dorsally with at least one yellow patch medially between wing-bases. Hind part of thorax with yellow patch just above insertion of abdominal petiole but lacking paired spots. Abdominal gaster yellow basally and apically.[3]

Sceliphron formosum[edit]

Face with a covering of golden hair, sparse ventrally; lower face with a yellow integumental patch medially. Thorax dorsally with a yellow patch between wing bases. Hind part of thorax with a yellow patch just above insertion of abdominal petiole and four other yellow spots. Abdominal gaster yellow basally and apically.[3]

Airplane incidents[edit]

Florida Commuter Airlines[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.

Birgenair Flight 301[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 two days with uncovered pitot tubes. Investigators believe a black and yellow mud dauber got into the tube and built its cylindrical nest inside, causing faulty air speed readings that were a large part of the crash. The main and primary cause of the crash however, was pilot error due to the flight crew's improper response to inaccurate airspeed as well as the stick-shaker stall warning.

Gulfstream N450KK[edit]

On April 10, 2015, about 1845 eastern daylight time, a Gulfstream Aerospace G-IV, N450KK, was substantially damaged during a cabin over-pressurization event over the Caribbean Sea while en route to Fort Lauderdale, Florida. An initial examination of the fuselage revealed that the outflow valve safety port, located on the outer fuselage, was completely plugged with a foreign material resembling dried dirt from a mud dauber.[4]

See also[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. ^ "Species Chalybion californicum – Blue Mud Wasp". Department of Entomology, Iowa State University. 10 June 2017. Retrieved 1 July 2017.
  3. ^ a b "Slender mud-dauber wasps: genus Sceliphron - Western Australian Museum".
  4. ^ "ERA15LA328". Retrieved 2016-10-09.