What Are Mud Dauber Wasps and Should You Get Rid of Them?
Evidently I'm a wasp magnet. Not exactly, but I seem to be destined to have a run-in with a wasp every seven years.
I'm kicking back like I do and I hear a voice call from the bedroom. I go to the bedroom and my girlfriend informs me there's a wasp in there. I see it sitting on a colorful painting, seeming attracted by the colors of the art of this particular work, I suppose; it moved a bit, only very slightly, like it was inspecting the shades of red and yellow on the canvas. Don't know. I know it looked like a wasp, with a long body and wings, some yellow markings and a stinger. That, to me, is a bad sign. What I couldn't figure out was why, even with my face less than a foot away from it while I was examining it, it just kind of sat there. I put a cup over it, then removed the cup, it didn't do a thing. I got a coaster, put the cup back on the thing and trapped it in the cup, covering the opening with the coaster and released it on the patio and watched it fly away while I rushed back indoors.
I was a bit dumbfounded by the fact that I was never attacked.
Then, a few days later, the thing was back, playing around on the kitchen window. This time I got nervous. Why was she back? She had it in for us, I guessed. I just didn't want to get stung or for anyone else to get stung. It was a wasp, after all. I asked my girlfriend for her hair-spray, because I was already tired of dealing with this problem. I sprayed the bug heavily with hair-spray and watched her struggle with the sticky gunk on her wings, then I tore off a piece cardboard from a box of tea and smashed her with it.
Weird. Because I felt bad. She never gave me a fight. I felt like maybe I just killed something that meant no harm.
And I was right.
The Yellow and Black Mud Dauber Wasp
This was how the wasp looked. It had that typical wasp body; long, narrow waist, stinger. It was black except the legs were yellow. Its behavior: Docile.
Quite incongruent with my picture of a typical wasp.
Well, what I had encountered was a yellow and black mud dauber wasp. It gets its name obviously from it's markings and look, and also because it makes nests made of mud. The female carries balls of mud to the nest and proceeds to build it. They build the nests side by side or on top of each other and they come out rounded; they put them in corners of buildings, eaves, in barns. They differ from other wasp nests because there are no combs. The nests are just packed-in mud.
They are solitary wasps that eat spiders, including black widow spiders. They sting the spiders to paralyze them, then carry the arachnids to the nest so the babies can feed off of them. For this reason, mud daubers are considered a good natural form of pest control.
They use those stingers mainly for prey. They rarely sting humans, only if handled roughly or attacked. For this reason, it is often advised to leave them alone and not get rid of them. They get rid of flies and spiders and are generally harmless to humans. Birds get rid of the mud daubers, so there's an interesting ecological lesson in all this.
However, the best thing to do if you feel you need to get rid of them is to maybe spray them with wasp freeze and knock down the nest with a broomstick or something along those lines that will scrape the nest off the area. Then you can put a tablespoon of peppermint extract into a spray bottle and fill the bottle with water, and spray areas with it where you want to keep the wasps away. They hate the strong smell of peppermint, it repels them.
Why Did I Get Rid of The Wasp?
Well, I didn't know what it was and didn't know what I was doing. All I saw was WASP! and proceeded to attack. Probably it was totally unnecessary for me to kill it. I probably could have captured it again, let it go outside and then just knock down its nest. She would have lost interest in my apartment and moved on, and gotten rid of some poisonous spiders elsewhere.
However, accidents do happen. She could have kept coming into my apartment and somebody could have gotten stung accidentally, rolling over in bed to turn on a lamp. Just didn't want any kind of a wasp around me and the family at all.
At any rate, these are the easiest wasps to deal with. They don't attack in a swarm like the more "social" wasps that protect their nests. So, when deciding whether to get rid of them, it's a matter of deciding whether their location is around human traffic where you don't want them and whether the benefit of them getting rid of the spiders is worth getting rid of them or leaving them alone.
Have you dealt with mud dauber wasps?
Update: Ziplock Bag, Water and Pennies
Previously (above), I had mentioned using peppermint spray as a wasp repellant. I've found this to be a temporary solution at best and a bit labor intensive. You can spray quite a bit of the peppermint oil and water mixture around areas where you want to repel wasps, but they'll come back when the spray wears off.
I eventually added dish soap to the spray and sprayed wasps as they entered my patio where they were coming and going throughout the day. This chased them off, but they came back later. Someone told me it's dangerous to attack them because they release chemicals when attacked that alerts their comrades to attack their adversary.
So, I did some research. I discovered that there is a fly repellant used to a great extent in Mexico and to some extent in areas of the US, and this repellant is also used to keep wasps away. It involves filling up a Ziplock freezer bag half-way with water, dropping 4 pennies in it and hanging it in the area where you want to keep the wasps away.
I did just that, as you can see from the picture above to the right. For the past 2 days, the wasps have not returned. So, I'm counting this as a victory and going to say the Ziplock bag with water and pennies works. If it turns out the wasps come back, I'll update.
Update a Month Later
I cannot say conclusively that the Ziplock bag with water and pennies works to keep the wasps away. While they never entered the patio and hung around, they did come around the outside area of the patio around the eave; at that time, I'd added vinegar to my mixture of water, dish soap and peppermint oil, and continued to spray the wasps and the area with this homemade repellant. This seemed to keep them at bay. I can say I never got stung and the wasps didn't spend a lot of time around the patio or on the patio.