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What Are Mud Dauber Wasps and How to Get Rid of Them

I recently found and killed a mud dauber wasp. Afterward, I felt like maybe I'd just killed something that meant no harm. And I was right.

The black and yellow mud dauber wasp. Basically a harmless solitary wasp that makes its nest from mud.

The black and yellow mud dauber wasp. Basically a harmless solitary wasp that makes its nest from mud.

I recently found and killed a yellow-and-black mud dauber wasp that was very docile because I didn't realize mud daubers are non-aggressive. When left alone, these wasps only use their stingers to paralyze spiders, which they eat. Because mud daubers are a natural form of pest control and aren't threatening to humans, it is recommended to leave them alone. However, some people may find their presence bothersome and may want to get rid of them.

This article covers everything there is to know about the mud dauber wasp: why you should or shouldn't get rid of them, and how to get rid of them if you decide to do so.

What Are Mud Daubers?

Mud dauber (often mistakenly called "dirt dauber") is the name given to several types of solitary wasps that build their nests using mud.

Unlike yellow jackets or hornets, mud daubers do not live in colonies and do not defend their nests. They are also not aggressive, but they will sting if they feel threatened.

Types of Mud Daubers

  • Organ-pipe mud dauber
  • Black-and-yellow mud dauber
  • Metallic-blue mud dauber

Appearance

Large wasps measure about one inch in length with long, narrow waists. They are usually black and yellow or black/dark blue with a metallic sheen and possess clear or dark wings.

Do They Sting or Bite?

Mud daubers rarely sting humans and mainly use their stinger to paralyze spiders. These wasps are non-aggressive and do not defend their nests. If you destroy or attack their nest, they prefer to move on and rebuild somewhere else.

If they do sting, it is out of self-defense, and the pain is mild. It does not hurt as much as a bee sting (unless you have allergies to wasp venom).

How to know if you're allergic: Your doctor can run tests to determine if you're allergic, but most people won't know they're allergic until they get stung. A normal reaction includes pain, swelling, and redness at the sting site. An allergic reaction causes swelling that radiates beyond the sting site accompanied by itching and pain.

A severe allergic reaction (anaphylaxis) causes rapid swelling of the face, throat, and tongue; hives; wheezing; trouble breathing or swallowing; and/or dizziness. Practice caution when handling any type of insect.

Diet

They eat spiders (especially black widows) and flower nectar. They are omnivores.

When Are They Most Active?

Mud daubers come out in warmer weather—late spring and summer in northern climates and year-round in tropical climates. They are most active during the daytime and are commonly found near puddles collecting mud.

Region

Common throughout Mexico, the United States, and Canada.

How Long Do Mud Daubers Live?

The mud dauber lifecycle from egg to adulthood spans one year. Eggs are planted in the cells of the mud dauber's nest and hatch after a few days. The larva eats the spider left for it by its mother and then spins a cocoon, in which it remains for about three weeks before it emerges from the nest as an adult.

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Note: Mud dauber pupae stay inside their nest during winter and emerge during spring.

Mud Dauber Nests

Mud daubers are known for their trademark nests, which look like pipes and contain several chambers (each housing a single egg). Mud dauber nests differ from other wasp nests because there are no combs. The organ-pipe mud dauber constructs nests that look like long, thin pipes, while other mud daubers typically create urn-shaped nests.

Nest Location

Mud dauber nests are often found on the side of buildings under overhangs, on front porches, in barns, or inside caves to protect themselves from the rain. They like rough surfaces, such as brick and stucco, because the surfaces help the mud stick.

Important Note: Mud daubers like to build their nests inside holes and crevices and are known to shut down electrical machinery, like lawn motors, when they nest inside the exhaust holes.

How Does the Mud Dauber Construct Its Nest?

The female dauber locates an area with an abundant supply of mud (clay is her favorite). The mud dauber will collect mud from several sites, so you may notice nests with several different colors of mud. She then constructs the nest by herself while the male dauber guards it.

She uses her mandible (jaw) to roll up soft mud into a ball. She carries this ball with her front legs to the location she has selected for construction. With her head and mandible, she presses the mud onto a flat surface and uses her saliva to shape it into an urn or tube-like structure.

They Use the Nest for Laying Eggs

Once finished, the female hunts down spiders and places a spider into each chamber. She then lays one egg each on top of the spider and abandons the nest. When the eggs hatch, each larvae feeds on its own spider and eats its way through the nest's walls to emerge into adulthood.