I became interested in the potter wasp and began to look for other mud builders. Looking around my own home I found these Organ Pipe wasp nest made by Trypoxylon politum. They build their egg nest in sheltered locations such as under eaves or the insides of abandoned buildings. In this case they are under my deck. I think the previous owners were afraid of them and knocked them down. But actually they are harmless and not really aggressive as are most solitary wasps. You can see how they get the common name “organ pipe” because of the shape.
The female starts the nest by rolling small bits of mud into a ball which she carries to the site. I suspect in this case they found the mud at the creek just below the house. When the tube is the right size she finds a spider, stings it and stuffs it into the tube. After enough of them are packed in she will lay an egg inside and seal the tube with more clay. Then she starts another chamber and the process begins again. There are tons of spiders around my house and probably yours as well so there is no problem running out of larva food. Once the larva hatches it begins eating the spiders until it is finished growing. Next it spins a cocoon and changes into a pupa where it spends the winter and emerges early the next summer. As adults they mostly eat nectar.
Last summer a friend of mine gave me a Mason Bee block to provide a place for them to lay their eggs and thus help protect our native bees. These too use mud to seal up the entrance to their nest. The block has several holes but only a few have been used.
I find it interesting how once I am aware of something then I begin to see it everywhere. That has been the case with the mud building wasp. When I was stacking wood this fall I found some odd looking cocoon like structures made out of mud. I took photos of course as you can see below.
Researching in “Tracks and Signs of Insects” by Eiseman and Charney page 284 I discover what I had were spider wasp nest (Pompilidae: Auplopodini). They describe them as being found between logs in a wood pile. Whoa…that is exactly where I found them! I love this field guide. They do pretty much the same thing as the other wasps that use mud but the shape is different. So now I am on the lookout for other interesting wasp nest.
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