Friday, August 04, 2006

Mud Dauber Secrets

This Mud Dauber wasp nest was in the small shed that shelters a mower, a tiller, and assorted garden tools. Mud Daubers gathe wet mud from pond and stream banks and then carry the tiny ball of mud back to the nest site. The walls of the nest are created from this "cement".These nests look strong, but they melt in the rain, hence the daubers always look for a sheltered spot to build. I popped this one off the shed ceiling. You are looking at the flat side of the nest that was against the metal roof.

You can see 4 chambers. The two on the right contain older larvae that are already wrapped up and pupating into adulthood.
The far left chamber was stuffed full of paralyzed spiders and one tiny grubby larva. The larva (about one centimeter long) is perched on the edge of his brood chamber after I used a small probe to pull out the contents of his spidery larder.

Posted by Picasa

In the second chamber from the left was a much larger larva and the partial remains of one spider. I assume from his size and empty cupboard that he was about to pupate. Again, I used the probe to lift him out for the photo. He's lying partially on the smaller larva and you can see how much larger he is.

All of the paralyzed spiders in the photo came out of the one brood chamber at the far left. A nest like this can have 8 to 10 chambers, each stuffed with paralyzed spiders.

Mud Daubers are probably a major check on the spider population.


I'm a check on both of them when they choose my porch for their nest habitat.


Anonymous said...

I get the best science lessons over here!

I wouldn't mind having a few of those in my shed. We have so many spiders in there that I can't bring myself to go inside of it anymore. I have found black widow spiders in there several times. Will the mud daubers go after the black widow?

Lightnin said...

Yuck! I hate spiders with a passion! They're just so creepy-crawly! I opened the bathroom window this morning to wave bye to Thunder and there was a fat spider on the screen! Aha! I fixed him right up with some hairspray! Do we really need spiders? Do they serve any purpose other than creeping me out?

Anonymous said...

Heh - that's a chamber of horrors, for sure. And all those spiders are still alive.

I'm still viewing dirt daubers' constructions as architectural marvels. We haven't had enough rain for them to melt. It's sort of an Anasazi place around here.

robin andrea said...

I didn't know that those spiders would still be alive inside the nest. That is rather macabre. I've never looked inside one of these nests, so this is really a great view. It's amazing what they do with mud.

OldHorsetailSnake said...

Boy, Cracker, I love these little educational ripostes.

Anonymous said...

for what it's worth, I use Windex to kill the roaches. (lightning's comment about hairspray made me think of it just now, sorry!).

It usually takes a moment for the Windex to work, but they roll over and die soon enough. and at least the trail of windex that you'll spray when going after him will help disinfect the floor or wall!

Leslie said...

Great photos (I'm loving your digital camera, BTW). It's amazing they can pack all those spiders in there! That big larva was just ooky though.

R.Powers said...

Laura (x2)
That is a great quesion...I don't know the answer. I've never noticed a widow in a mud dauber nest (knocked down a bunch). It might be that the widows are too secretive. Most of the spider species in the picture above are bold, out in the open day time spiders.
As for using windex to kill spiders and then allowing the dieing spider to clean the floor...I love multitasking. :)

HAPPY BELATED BIRTHDAY! Hairspray...I bet that spider had all day control.

They are pretty cool. I only remove them from areas that I want to look clean. They really make a mess on the porch and under the bow of my boat. That weird jug pottery nest I posted a few weeks ago hatched, each little jug has a hole in it. I didn't see who crawled out.

mud dauber stings are mild, but paperwasps are no fun. wd-40 and a lighter??

Paralyzed, but alive as they are eaten...probably less painfull than the spider's method.

It's important to keep learning...that's why I visit your site!

Thanks (y'all go see Leslie's garden harvest) I'm loving the digital too!
I think a nest like this might have taken 80 to 100 spiders to fill each chamber.

Sandy Hatcher-Wallace said...

Yeah for the mud dauber cause I hate spiders. I think they should build their nests with 20 chambers of dead, that's D.E.A.D. spiders, not just paralysed ones.

Come to think of it, we haven't had to knock down any nests this year. They usually like to build under the ceiling of our front porch. Maybe our spider population has been depleted. Yeah!!!

threecollie said...

Great post, although that was a real "eeewwww" of a science lesson. I go after wasp nests in the eaves with a garden hose because it dissolves the nests and knocks down the wasps, but I don't look too close at the result. *shudder*
And we use WD40 too, Dread Pirate. Liz clips show calves right where the worst nests are and the WD40 is so handy since she lubricates the clippers with it. Cheaper than wasp killer and VERY effective

swamp4me said...

Great post, FC! I have a favor to ask, a former-teacher-turned-ranger to former-ranger-turned-teacher sort of favor. Any chance you could email me at the link in my sidebar?

R.Powers said...

Ahh come on, tell us how you REALLY feel about spiders! :)

I'm thinking a "How do YOU use WD-40?" post might be a good idea for someone to do.

Sure! Going there now! click.

Anonymous said...

Okay, I'm catching up, and I REALLY want to read this post but I can't have the pictures on the screen long enough to read the text. I still think you're wonderful, though!

Anonymous said...

Yes they will. Its their favorite food and blue daubers are harmless unlikethe widow spiders ththeye feed ytheir young.

Anonymous said...

LOVE THIS! I know your post is from a while ago...but your legacy lives on! I just removed a nest without thinking of the educational component of trying to save it and study the contents but I want to show the kids what was in it...and your photos are awesome as a tutorial without having to deal with it myself. Thanks for sharing! - Mandi in DC

nfmgirl said...

I had a mud dauber make a very colorful nest at my work when they were doing construction next door:

Rebecca Wells, Archaeologist said...

Hi, I was wondering if I could get permission to include the first photo with the larvae and pupae in the nest in a publication. We found a prehistoric mud dauber nest with spiders still packed inside and burned from the house catching on fire. We were able to use radiocarbon dating to figure out the age of those spiders and therefore when the house burned down (between 600-800 AD).
Thank you