Mud dauber or dirt dauber is a term we use for a family of wasps. We call them this way because they commonly nest in swamps and other areas full of mud. Farmers sometimes describe them as pests, but they are very important for eliminating certain types of insects.
In this article, we will answer what do mud daubers eat and will talk about some of their main traits.
Mud Daubers Habits and biology
Mud dauber can vary in terms of its appearance depending on the family. Some of them will be a bit longer and slender, with approximately 1 inch in length. What separates them from other animals is the way they build nests. Female wasps will take mud with their mandibles, transport it to the nest site, and then use the material to mold their nest.
Although many people are scared of these wasps, they are fairly harmless. Mud daubers are not an aggressive species and tend to be belligerent when facing danger. They very rarely sting.
Unlike many other animal species, mud daubers are solitary animals. Every nest has one wasp that takes care of all things. They often build them around houses, and they are really easy to spot. In a sense, they are nature’s architects creating nests of various shapes.
There is a major difference between young and adult mud daubers in terms of their appearance. Babies will look like worms, and as they grow up, they will have bright metallic colors and unique-looking waists.
Here are some of their common habits:
- While this species is not social, it is common for females to utilize the same area for nesting. Males don’t necessarily pursue females. Instead, they will wait for them when they’re near the nest, which is when they will mate.
- Often, other insects and animals will use daubers’ nests once they leave them.
- Before they start hatching eggs, they will fill nests with paralyzed spiders and other prey. Once the eggs hatch, the larva will start eating these animals.
- Certain species of daubers dig into the ground searching for cicadas, katydids, and other insects.
- Unlike many other animal species, mud daubers rarely defend their nests when facing danger. They will much rather fly away. The same goes when humans approach them.
What do mud daubers eat in the wild?
Compared to some other animals, dauber’s toxin is not that strong. When stung by this animal, you will feel it, but it shouldn’t cause a major negative reaction (unless you’re allergic). They almost exclusively use it when hunting as a way of paralyzing their prey.
It is worth noting that the species cannot eat dead insects. Instead, they will keep it paralyzed, so they don’t decompose. Otherwise, it wouldn’t be suitable for larvae as it wouldn’t provide enough nourishment.
The animal focuses on smaller or larger insects depending on its age. Mud daubers are popular in certain regions because of their ability to control the spider population. However, they also eat honeydew, nectar, as well as fluids from other animals.
Here are some of the things that the species eat:
- Crab spiders
- Orb weavers
- Jumping spiders
- Black widow spider
- Brown widow spider
Flower nectar is especially important for both sexes. But, this type of food is usually for adults. Young mud daubers need food with a much higher protein value, which is why they will only eat insects. The couple’s ability to provide for the prey will have a direct impact on offspring’s development.
Although the insects spread spiders all over their nest, they tend to lay eggs directly on top of this prey. They seal every nest with a mud cap preventing entrance or exiting. After setting up an individual cell with eggs and food, they will start building another cell near it. During the winter, young will not leave the nest and will continue feasting until the summertime.
Like many other species, mud daubers are willing to go to extreme lengths when hungry. If necessary, the species can digest dairy, products, vegetables, meat, and so on. While a very passive species, they are more likely to sting if they are really hungry.
Facts about mud daubers
This species is renowned for its nesting practices. They are simply beautiful and represent some of the best creations within the animal kingdom. Here are a few interesting facts about the insect:
- On average, a mud dauber’s nest will have a dozen spiders for consumption. But they sometimes leave more than 25 insects for their offspring. While the species is not aggressive, they have no trouble attacking poisonous spider species like brown and black widows.
- Generally speaking, mud daubers are not problematic animals. They are very passive by nature. The problem occurs if they build a nest on your home, and some other, more aggressive wasp species takes it over.
- Besides killing off spiders, the animal is famous for its ability to eliminate cicadas. As such, some homeowners like having them nearby to protect their gardens from the species.
- A female wasp is much more likely to sting you. Interestingly enough, their stings also serve as a sex organ.
- Not all mud daubers create their nests. Some of them, like blue mud daubers, overtake other specie’s spots.
- On average, a mud dauber lives about 20 to 25 days.
- The species utilizes its sharp eyesight for catching prey. It is their most developed sense, and they also use it for finding their nests. Their other senses are not that strong, and they rely on antennae for communication and interaction with the surrounding. Without them, mud daubers wouldn’t be able to hear, smell, or detect female pheromones.
- During mating, males do very little. Their main task is to stay close to the nest, eat nectar, and wait for females to reproduce. One of the rare things that males provide is the protection of the cocoon. As females go to forage, they will stay close to eggs. The pupation happens when the larvae are still in the cocoon.
- For the most part, females are the same size as males. But they have a bigger abdomen as they use it for carrying eggs.
- These insects are between 0.5 and 1 inch long. Like some other animals, they can carry weight heavier than themselves. For example, when building a nest, females will carry large mud balls bigger than them.
- The species is not endangered, and people rarely hunt them down. Sometimes, homeowners will destroy their nests if they make them on their property. We categorize this insect as least concerned in terms of its conservation status. It is hard to say how many mud daubers there are in the world. According to the recent data, there should be more than a million of them. In the last few years, the species was noticed in certain areas and countries where you couldn’t previously find them. Experts believe this is a direct result of human interference as they have probably transferred the species to other regions of the world.
- Although most people consider their nests harmless, there were situations in the past where they led to mechanical malfunctions. For example, in September 1980, a major accident was caused by a mud dauber’s nest in a plane’s tubes. During a routine checkup, the technicians haven’t noticed it. This led to a crash that killed the entire crew and 34 passengers.
- The species is active only during the summer. You can usually see them around muddy waters. During the winter, they will roll up in a cocoon where they will spend the season.
- During the mating process, the insect will not stay overnight in the nest. Instead, they will go to nearby trees and bushes, where they will rest before they’re ready to lay eggs. Once they lay the eggs and provide sufficient food, both males and females leave the vicinity until the next mating cycle.
- This species prefers muddy areas because here they can find their favorite prey: spiders. However, they are also seen around cliffs, ledges, walls, and human-made structures. Due to the destruction of natural habitats, like many other species, they are more likely to occupy the same space as humans.
- Although this is flying species, you will rarely see it doing so. They will only fly from May to September; otherwise, they’re dormant. Expert classifies it as a very slow flyer.
- Strangely enough, the insect looks like spiders, their favorite prey. So you might’ve heard their alternative name, “dauber spider.”
Mud daubers are famous for their ability to create beautiful nests. Once they lay eggs, they will go searching for spiders and other small insects. The animal incapacitates them and carries them back to the nest to serve as nutrients for their offspring.
Although a flying species, they are very slow. Mud daubers will be inactive during most of the winter and will only go out during spring and summer. Although it invades homes, it can also be very useful due to the fact it eliminates spiders.