While cleaning up an outdoor work-site recently, one of our team members stumbled upon this mud "nest." She didn't know what it was, so she took it apart and was both fascinated and horrified by what she found inside.
The nest was made of four perfectly cylindrical tubes of mud, with only one tube being open. When the nest was broken apart, it was found to be stuffed full of immobile spiders. They weren't dried up, but they weren't moving either. There were also two white worms, or larvae, one being quite large and the other small. They were very much alive. There were over 30 spiders in the nest, of many different shapes, sizes and varieties.
When our team member did some research to find out what she had stumbled upon, she came upon this. The Mud Dauber Wasp.
This is the Mud Dauber's story, in a non-technical nutshell.
She gathers mud, and builds these magnificently perfect tubes. When one tube is built, she begins to gather food for the tube, or cell. Apparently she gathers bugs and spiders, but this particular nest was entirely filled with spiders. The Mud Dauber stings her prey, paralyzing them. Then she drags them to her nest and stuffs them inside the open cell, where they remain alive but paralyzed. They will be the baby Mud Dauber's food. When she has filled the cell as full as possible with spiders, she lays an egg in the cell and seals the opening with mud. As the egg grows through 4 different life stages inside the mud cell, it eats the paralyzed spiders. The mud dauber will often stack multiple cells together, but each one will hold only one egg and many insects for food.
Creepy? Yes. Awesome? Yes.
God's world was fearfully and wonderfully made. Consider that funny looking wasp dragging a paralyzed spider all the way to her nest, the spider often being bigger than her. Consider the perfect shape of each of the mud tubes. Who taught her how to do that? Consider the fact that she fought with every spider that she put in the nest, each small battle could have been her last if the spider had bit her first. She was the victor at least 30 times for this one nest alone.
These wasps seem to live by themselves, rather than in hives. Although we couldn't tell you where they live specifically, they don't seem to inhabit these little mud cells. The cells seem to serve only as incubators for larvae. The Mud Dauber wasps do not die after stinging a victim, which allows them to sting countless insects over their life span.
We at TomBoy Supply encourage you to continuously monitor your worksites for wasp nests. It could be helpful to have a Mud Dauber around because she works really hard to divert all of the spiders in the area to her nest. However, she could be dangerous to your workers or clients because of her sting. In the case of some people with specific allergies, one sting could prove fatal.
As you do work-site walk arounds, you'll find it helpful to carry our cordless Wet/Dry vacuum with you to keep things clean, safe, and professional on the job (linked here). Just make sure you don't vacuum up any live wasps into a bagless canister!