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Mud dauber is a term commonly applied to a number of wasp species that build their nests out of mud. The females of this species mould mud into a nest using their mandibles.
For two consecutive years a female has built a nest on the display of an old motorcycle parked in my garage! The wasp builds its nest around the month of July and takes several days to do so. I’ve ended up spending a lot of time trying to photograph the wasp as it hovers around the nest and this is an image I’m particularly happy with!
During the time the wasp was building the nest I sometimes had to use the motorcycle. So I often ended up taking the half finished nest for a ride into town! I imagine the wasp must have been pretty perplexed to find the ‘real estate’ on which she had built her nest gone! But that didn’t stop her from resuming construction the moment I returned the motorcycle back to my garage.
Adults of both sexes frequently drink flower nectar, but they stock their nests with spiders, which serve as food for their offspring. To capture a spider, the wasp grabs it and stings it. The venom from the sting does not kill the spider, but paralyzes and preserves it so it can be transported and stored in the nest cell until consumed by the larva. A mud dauber usually lays its egg on the paralyzed prey and then seals it into the nest cell with a mud cap.
Wikipaedia mentions that ‘Mud daubers are not normally aggressive, but can become belligerent when threatened. Stings are uncommon’. My experience is testimony to this statement since I was never bothered by the wasp even though it often purposefully followed my external flash as I moved it around. More than once I beat a hasty retreat under the pressure of the close inspection the wasp decided to give me too! But in the end I was always left unmolested. I suppose the wasp was simply making sure that the flash and me weren’t predators looking to pillage her nest.