Organ-pipe Mud Dauber

 Trypoxylon politum

 

Copyright, John Triffe

Note: The information and images for this webpage were collected chiefly from two websites: "Organ Pipe Wasps" at www.pollinator.com and Hilton Pond Center Those interested in learning more about these fascinating creatures should visit these sites.

The Organ-pipe Mud Dauber is a common wasp whose home is recognized more often than the insect itself.

Organ-pipe Mud Daubers are about an inch long and bluish-black, with a very thin waist.

They are most often seen on the sides of buildings where they are building a nest, or on the ground in places where there is soft mud.

Copyright 2001, by David L. Green, used with permission www.pollinator.com

Copyright 2001, by David L. Green, used with permission www.pollinator.com

After breeding, female Organ-pipe Mud Daubers look for a suitable place to build a nest. It must be close by some mud with the right type of soil (usually clay). Typically, they build on walls of buildings; but mud dauber nests have also been found on chimneys, under porches, in attics, and inside birdhouses. They've even been found on parked cars!

The female mud dauber starts building her nest by rolling small bits of mud into a ball. She then carries each mudball to the nest site, where she forms a cylinder-shaped tube.

When a tube is big enough, she must locate some prey. Young Organ-pipe Mud Daubers eat spiders; so she finds spiders one at a time, stings them, carries them to the nest, and stuffs them into the tube. When enough spiders are packed in, the female mud dauber lays an egg inside and seals the tube with clay. She then returns with more clay and extends the tube by adding on several chambers. Each chamber is stuffed with spiders and a single egg.

Copyright 2001, by David L. Green, used with permission www.pollinator.com

Copyright 2001, by David L. Green, used with permission www.pollinator.com

Copyright, Hilton Pond Center

Where is the male during all of this? He usually stands guard over the nest to make sure no parasites get inside before a tube is sealed. Certain types of flies, and even other wasps, will try to lay their own eggs in the mud daubers' tubes. If this happens, the parasite's eggs will hatch first and eat the spider food. The mud dauber larva will not survive.

An Organ-pipe Mud Dauber's nest usually has several tubes with a few chambers in each. Lots of spiders get packed into the nest.

When a mud dauber larva hatches from its egg, it immediately begins eating the spiders. The larva is cream-colored, and it eats and grows until it is about 3/4 inch long.

When a larva is done growing, it spins a cocoon and changes into a pupa. The insect spends the winter as a pupa and emerges as an adult mud dauber early next summer.

Once the adult mud dauber has left its cocoon, it must chew through the wall of its tube. Now the mud dauber can look for a mate and start the cycle over again.

Adult Organ-pipe Mud Daubers' main food is flower nectar. The nutrients from the flowers give them the energy to find a mate and build a nest.

Copyright 2001, by David L. Green, used with permission www.pollinator.com

Copyright, Hilton Pond Center

Many different species of spiders have been found in Organ-pipe Mud Dauber nests. Which type of spider doesn't seem as important as making sure plenty of spiders are used. There must be enough spider food supplied in the chamber for the larva to grow and pupate. The spiders most commonly used appear to be orb-weaving spiders (spiders who build circular webs). The picture below shows a collection of spiders taken from a single chamber of an Organ-pipe Mud Dauber's nest.

Copyright 2001, by David L. Green, used with permission www.pollinator.com

Female mud daubers do not kill spiders when they attack them. Instead, they sting them in order to paralyze them. This means they are delivered alive to the egg chamber in the tube.

To do this, the mud dauber must be careful. She could get caught in a spider's web and end up prey herself.

Other predators of mud daubers include insect predators such as birds, toads, mantids, and ants.

Organ-pipe Mud Daubers have been heard to make a "singing-like" noise while nest building.

Copyright 2001, by David L. Green, used with permission www.pollinator.com

Relationships in Nature:

FOOD/PREY
PREDATORS
SHELTER
OTHER

Black and Yellow Argiope

Black and Yellow Argiope

Common Milkweed Po

Spined Micrathena

Great Crested Flycatcher

Goldenrod Po

Rabid Wolf Spider

Black Carpenter Ant

Bull Thistle Po

Common Milkweed

American Toad

Black-eyed Susan Po

Goldenrod

Northern Mockingbird

Human SP

Bull Thistle

Carolina Wren

Black-eyed Susan

Common Grackle

Carolina Chickadee

Spined Micrathena

Bullfrog

Southern Leopard Frog

Relationship to Humans:

Different people have different reactions to Organ-pipe Mud Daubers. Some people get annoyed with the "organ pipe" tubes attached to their homes, others think they are beautiful. Many people are happy to have them around when they find out they kill lots of spiders. Mud daubers rarely sting people, even when their nests are in high-traffic areas. They are not aggressive like some other wasp species. They will sting if handled or stepped on.

SCIENTIFIC CLASSIFICATION

KINGDOM
Animal
PHYLUM
Arthropod
CLASS
Insect
ORDER
Hymenoptera
FAMILY
Specidae
GENUS
Trypoxylon
SPECIES
Trypoxylon politum

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