Mud Daubers

General Information

The nomenclature “mud dauber” belongs to several species of wasps found throughout the world, including Sceliphron caementarium, or the black and yellow wasp, and Chalybion californicum, often referred to as the blue mud wasp. Both species reside in areas across New England, although the black and yellow wasp remains more prevalent and widespread. The insect is characterized by nesting habits that incorporate mud-based domiciles. The unusual body type of the mud dauber also stands out among other species of wasps. Areas like New England featuring vast rural and metropolitan settings in temperate climates prove ideal for the wasp. However, the dense populations associated with New England states often lead to conflict between the insect and humans or other animals.

Appearance & Identification

What does a mud dauber wasp look like?
Mud dauber wasps that live in New England usually feature either black and yellow or black and bluish color striations. Average sizes ranges from half an inch up to a full inch in length. The insect features a very distinct, narrow “waist” or petiole area running between the abdomen and the thorax. Black and yellow mud daubers possess long hind legs and two sets of forelimbs featuring striped color patterns and red-brown or amber colored wings. Blue mud daubers are more solidly hued and feature blue-tinted wings and bodies that appear metallic in direct light. Both blue and black and yellow mud daubers have stingers used as a defense mechanism when threatened.

Habits/Habitat

Black and yellow mud dauber wasps and blue mud daubers vary in habitation trends in one key characteristic. The black and yellow mud dauber remains infamous for constructing nests out of mud collected from nearby sources. Building overhangs, eaves, bridge undercarriages, and other areas the insect can nestle away serve as ideal breeding grounds. The nests of black and yellow mud daubers are typically rounded or globe-like and feature side-by-side or transverse honeycomb cells. The cells serve as storage for food sources rounded up by the wasp to feed to young larvae or pupae housed inside. Blue mud daubers, in contrast to the black and yellow species, do not build nests of their own but inhabit nests built by other wasp species. Both types of wasp may be found in warm regions in between the arctic poles and remain most active during sunlit hours. Incidents of mud dauber stings are rare, and the insect regularly remains passive when threatened.

Diet

What does a mud dauber wasp eat?
Mud daubers are a highly parasitic insect that sting prey in order to render the food source paralyzed for later consumption. The diets of blue mud dauber wasps almost exclusively include black widow spiders. Black and yellow mud daubers also feed on spiders but are far more varied in selections. Adults feed on the nectar produced by flowers, although sparingly. Most food consumption by mud daubers takes place during the early stages of life.

Reproduction

Female mud daubers lay eggs individually into each cell in the nest and then place food enough for each larva to eat inside and plug the hole with mud. The cell will remain closed until the newly hatched mud dauber breaks free from the cell after feeding and going through larval and pupal stages. Some species of mud daubers protect youth with male “guards.” The types common to New England largely aid the young through continued provision of sustenance. The larvae of mud daubers are legless and white in color and resemble white worms or maggots. Mud daubers may produce two generations annually.

Problems Caused by Mud Dauber Wasps

The habits of mud daubers rarely affect day-to-day human actions. Problems may arise due to contact with the insect near homes, as the wasps do sting if agitated enough. Mud dauber wasps actually serve as a great population control for many species of spiders, including highly venomous black widow spiders.

Signs of Infestation

The most visible signs of mud dauber infestations include frequent spotting of the insect in or around eaves and overhangs. Home and business owners might also physically see mud dauber nests in the open. The wasps often cluster or swarm during inclement weather and at night, which may prove more identifiable than the behavior of one or two individual mud daubers.

Prevention

Regular inspections of homes or businesses, especially those with overhangs or many eaves, may prevent infestations of mud daubers. In extreme cases, contacting a local pest control company may prove necessary. However, homeowners should take into consideration the control of spider populations the wasps provide before using professional services or taking personal extermination measures. Sometimes moving the nest to a more desirable location away from human contact proves an acceptable measure of prevention and infestation control.