Today’s Wonder of the Day was inspired by WonderTeam. WonderTeam Wonders, “What insect builds a mud nest?” Thanks for WONDERing with us, WonderTeam!

Picture it: You’re enjoying recess on a beautiful spring day. You and your classmates have just finished a game of volleyball. Now, you’re relaxing in the shade with a few friends. 

You lean against the side of the school building and look up.  A few feet above your head, you see what looks like a tunnel made out of mud. You stand on your tiptoes for a closer look. Suddenly, something exits the tunnel. First, you see its head, then a string-thin midsection, wings, and finally, the sharp stinger at the end of its body. 

Ahhhh! You and your friends run away just as the small insect takes flight. You take refuge inside your school and heave a sigh of relief. You’ve just come face-to-face with a wasp! Specifically, you just saw a mud dauber wasp.

Where do you think mud dauber wasps got their name? You guessed it! They’re named for the fact that they make their nests out of mud. Sometimes, these nests might look like shapeless mounds of mud. Often, though, they look like small tunnels or flutes. When a mud dauber makes more than one of these tunnels right next to each other, its nest looks a lot like organ pipes.

Have you ever seen a mud dauber wasp? They’re usually either dark blue or black. Many of them have yellow spots on their abdomen. Their wings can be clear or dark. At about one inch long, they have a very distinctive shape. You’ll know a wasp is a mud dauber if you see a very thin, thread-like waist. 

It’s the female mud daubers who build their signature nests. When they’re ready to lay their eggs, they gather mud and shape it into a tube. Then, sometimes with the help of males, they collect food for the nest. Using their stingers, they paralyze several spiders. They place each spider inside the nest and lay an egg on one of them. Finally, the female mud dauber seals the nest with more mud.

When mud dauber larvae hatch from their eggs, they feed on the paralyzed spiders left for them. Kind of like how a family member might pack a delicious snack in YOUR lunchbox! The spiders are a delicious and nutritious treat for the growing larvae

The larvae develop for about three weeks and then become pupae. They then spend the winter in cocoons before emerging as adult wasps the next spring.

Mud daubers usually build their nests in places with natural protection and shelter. You’d be likely to find one under a porch or carport ceiling. They’re also sometimes found in attics—since mud daubers are very small and can easily fit through tiny holes in a house’s exterior.

What should you do if you see a mud dauber nest? It’s best to keep your distance. Mud dauber wasps are usually not a threat to humans, but sometimes more dangerous insects take shelter in their nests after the mud daubers have left.

Mud dauber wasps like to be left alone. Unlike other wasps, they usually live by themselves instead of with a group. So, if you see a mud dauber wasp flying through the air, don’t invade its space. Leave it alone, and it’ll do the same for you.

Standards: NGSS.LS1.A, NGSS.LS1.C, NGSS.LS3.B, CCRA.L.3, CCRA.L.6, CCRA.R.4, CCRA.R.1, CCRA.R.2, CCRA.R.10, CCRA.W.2, CCRA.RW.3 CCRA.W.4, CCRA.W.9, CCRA.W.10, CCRA.L.1, CCRA.L.2, CCRA.SL.1

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