Mud daubers are the friendliest of wasp species -- in more ways than one. They are capable of stinging, but rarely do, and unlike other more menacing wasps, they typically leave people alone unless disturbed. The non-aggressive mud dauber establishes its nest out of mud, which fascinates many a young insect enthusiast. Mud daubers in North America include the blue mud dauber, the black and yellow mud dauber and the organ pipe mud dauber.
The female mud dauber is in charge of home building. The wasp uses its jaws and legs to form balls of rolled-up mud and then shapes the mud into a nest. The black and yellow mud dauber builds a fist-size cylindrical-cell type nest and the appropriately-named organ pipe mud dauber erects a mud-tube nest, which looks like a series of tubes stacked side by side. The blue mud dauber does not build its own nest, but borrows abandoned black and yellow mud dauber nests, according to Iowa State University.
Dangers of the Nest
While mud daubers and their clay nests are primarily innocuous, they have been known to cause problems. It is likely they are directly responsible for more than one plane crash. Experts believe that mud dauber nests blocked the pitot tubes in a Boeing 757 taking off from Costa Rica in 1996. The crash killed 13 crew members and 176 travellers, according to "Computer Weekly." Mud daubers also like to nest in attics, car ports and cavities in outside equipment, occasionally causing malfunctions, according to the University of Oklahoma. Overall, though, mud daubers do more good than harm, since they primarily feed on unwanted insects, and problematic nests can be removed quite easily .
Mud daubers hunt down spiders, paralyse them and stuff them into the cells in their nests; then lay their eggs on top of the paralysed spiders and seal up the cells. The blue mud dauber will take over an active nest, remove the old spiders and eggs and replace them with its own spiders and eggs, according to Ohio State University. The paralysed spiders do not die, but instead live in their comatose state to provide food for the developing mud dauber larvae. When the larva finishes eating its spiders, it morphs into a pupa, which will emerge the following summer as an adult.
Let's Be Friends
Perhaps the foremost expert on mud daubers, Dr. George Daniel Shafer, spent 9 years studying the creatures beginning in 1940, according to "Time" magazine. He became convinced that female mud daubers have a nervous system, a memory and the ability to bond with humans. Dr. Shafer developed such a close relationship with some of his mud daubers that he taught them to eat honey from his hand.