Monthly Image: Organ Pipe Mud Dauber Wasp Nest

The side of our house seems to attract Organ Pipe Mud Dauber Wasps during nesting season.

One pair of wasps built this impressive structure behind the patio door, beside the bathroom window:

Organ Pipe Mud Dauber Wasp Nest - side view

Organ Pipe Mud Dauber Wasp Nest – side view

The female wasp built six tubes over the course of an August week, carrying blobs of mud the size of her head and abdomen from sources about 30 seconds away (1 minute round trip). Each blob produces half of one serration around the tube, with a seam running down the middle, and requires 20 seconds to smooth into place. We got tired just watching her!

Each tube has many compartments, each containing a wasp larva and a paralyzed spider, with a mud cap inside the end:

Organ Pipe Mud Dauber Wasp Nest - bottom view B

Organ Pipe Mud Dauber Wasp Nest – bottom view B

We watched the wasps attack, sting, and remove spiders of a specific size from the corners of our window frames.

The young wasps in the innermost tube may not make it out alive, because they must chew through at least one outer tube before flying away:

Organ Pipe Mud Dauber Wasp Nest - bottom view A

Organ Pipe Mud Dauber Wasp Nest – bottom view A

Perhaps layering the outer tubes around a central tube makes for a more compact and durable nest, with the possible sacrifice of offspring in the center.

The new wasps will likely emerge next spring.

  1. #1 by Keith Ward on 2018-09-16 - 08:52

    I was and still am fascinated by these and many others in the insect world. I carefully dissected an organ pipe assembly years ago and laid out the contents on a sheet of paper. So many varieties of spiders so many sections. Mud daubers are one of the least likely to sting varieties of wasps, and like everything else in that world, help keep things in balance.

    • #2 by Ed on 2018-09-16 - 18:40

      I tried taking time-lapse pix of the assembly process, but the camera + tripod seemed to confuse the wasp’s terminal guidance. So: no detailed pix.

      On the other paw, I called down the angelfire on a Yellowjacket nest in one of the leaf mulch bags around the back of the garage …

  2. #3 by tantris on 2018-09-16 - 22:56

    They seem to have no problem with layer separation ;)
    Maybe different angles throughout their “print” helps with avoiding a shear line.

    • #4 by Ed on 2018-09-17 - 17:45

      The mud is surely Good Enough Armor™ for the usual assailants, even if it’s still crumbly to the human touch, and all the strands fuse into a single structure. I couldn’t build a tube if I tried!