Two summers ago, a Black and Yellow Mud Dauber wasp built her nest in the Back 40 (inches). A new generation of these large, black-bodied wasps with yellow legs emerged in June of last year. This year I had one inside the house. Not here in Brooklyn, but at the family house in Massachusetts. This wasp was building her nest in the front door frame, between the screen and house doors. The screen door of the old manse is sagging, so there’s a gap at the top, which allowed her access.As the name mud-dauber suggests, these wasps build their nests out of mud, individual cells first, then a surrounding stucco of mud around the cluster of cells. Here she was just starting out. One of the inch-long cells had been sealed, the other was still open and unfilled.Inside each cell, the wasp lays an egg atop the provisions she has brought for the larva-to-come. The young eat paralyzed spiders.I shooed the wasp out of the house half a dozen times before I found the location of the developing nest. Regretfully, I broke it up and found these four spiders in the sealed cell. But then a couple of days later, in the same door frame, clearly an excellent location — water is dried mud’s worst enemy — another cell appeared. It’s darker on the left hand side of the cell because the mud there is still wet.This one had thirteen spiders crammed into it.There are several different species of orb-weavers here. The abdomen certainly do look meaty.Really sorry I had to break up the housekeeping here, considering the huge amount of work this one wasp had to do. She carried bit after bit of mud — it’s been dry on the island too, but I’m guessing the construction site next door might have been a source — and hunted down the spiders on her own. Like a lot of adult predatory wasps, she herself is a vegetarian, supping on nectar. Meanwhile, there are cleptoparasitic wasps who like to avail themselves of the provisioning the Black and Yellow wasp does. Endlessly fascinating is the natural world.
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This work by Matthew Wills is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.