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.
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 (commonly misnamed dirt dobber) 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
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 build again somewhere else.
If they do sting, it is out of self-defense, and the pain is mild and 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 runs 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.
They eat spiders (especially black widows) and flower nectar. They are omnivores.
When Are They Most Active?
They 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.
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 into 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, which it remains in for about three weeks before it emerges from the nest as an adult.
Note: Mud dauber pupas stay inside their nest during winter and emerge during spring.
Mud Dauber Nest
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.
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 when it emerges in adulthood.
Other types of wasps can take over abandoned mud dauber nests, so be sure to correctly identify the inhabitants before assuming they are docile mud daubers. They may be aggressive hornets!
Should You Get Rid of Mud Dauber Wasps?
Mud daubers rarely sting humans and only do so 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 also get rid of the mud daubers naturally. But if you do decide to eradicate them yourself, they are the easiest wasps to deal with because they don't attack in a swarm like the more "social" wasps that protect their nests do.
When deciding whether to get rid of them, consider whether their location is near enough to human traffic that it causes an annoyance and whether the benefit of them getting rid of the spiders is worth having the daubers around.
Pros and Cons of Removing Mud Daubers
|Why You Should Get Rid of Them||Why You Shouldn't|
They're an annoying sight.
They get rid of spiders, including the poisonous black widows.
They scare children and anyone afraid of bugs.
They're harmless and only sting if they feel threatened.
They may fly into your home and may sting if you try to remove them.
Birds feed on them, so they get rid of the mud dauber naturally.
Someone may be allergic to wasps.
They are beneficial to the ecosystem because they control the poisonous black widow population and are a source of food for birds.
How to Get Rid of Mud Daubers and Stop Them From Coming Back
Here is how you should get rid of these wasps.
Remove Their Nests
- Spray the nest with wasp freeze. This will ensure that if there are any wasps in there, they will die and not attack you when you try to remove their nest.
- Scrape the nest off the area with a paint scraper. You might notice some spiders falling out, but the spiders have been paralyzed by the mud dauber, so they won't harm you. Dispose of the broken nest and all its contents.
- Spray the area with water to clean up residue.
For Underground or Hidden Nests: Sprinkle Diatomaceous Earth (DE) and/or talcum powder on and into nests that are out of reach. DE dries out the wasp and talcum powder poisons.
Relocate the Nest
You can also relocate the wasp nest. Do it at night when the wasps are sleeping and wear protective gear.
Control the Spider Population Near You
If you get rid of their food source, they'll go somewhere else. Take down spider webs, and use spider repellant to control the spider population.
Attract Birds That Eat Mud Daubers
Starlings, Magpipes, and common blackbirds all love to eat wasps. Attract them by putting up some bird feeders and bird baths.
Important Note: Don't use nectar because the mud dauber and other types of wasps and bees are attracted to nectar. Use seeds instead—but beware of rodents.
Put a tablespoon of peppermint extract into a spray bottle and dilute it with some water. Spray the mixture onto areas where you want to keep the wasps away. The strong smell of peppermint repels them.
Note: This is only a temporary solution. The mud daubers will return once the spray wears away, so you have to constantly reapply.
Ziplock Bag, Water, and Pennies
This worked like a charm! Fill up a Ziplock freezer bag halfway with water and drop four pennies in it. Then hang it in the area where you want to keep the wasps away. (It works as a fly repellent too!)
I hung this up in my patio area, and the wasps didn't get near, but they still hung around the outside of the patio.
Dish Soap and Vinegar
Like peppermint oil, dishwashing soap and/or vinegar is a good natural homemade mud dauber repellent, but it is only a temporary solution.
How I Discovered the Mud Dauber Wasp
I had a run-in with a wasp recently. My girlfriend informed me that there was a wasp sitting on a colorful painting in our bedroom, so I went to inspect. It was seemingly attracted to the colors of this particular art work. It moved a bit, only very slightly, like it was inspecting the shades of red and yellow on the canvas.
I Released It
I had my face less than a foot away from it while I was examining it, but it just sat there. I put a cup over it, then removed the cup, but it didn't do a thing. So I got a coaster to trap it in the cup, and then released it on the patio and watched it fly away while I rushed back indoors. I was dumbfounded by the fact that I was never attacked.
A few days later, the thing returned—this time it was playing around our kitchen window. I was so afraid of getting stung that I sprayed the bug heavily with hairspray and watched her struggle with the sticky gunk on her wings. Then I tore off a piece of cardboard from a box of tea and smashed her with it.
Weirdly, 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.
Why Did I Get Rid of the Wasp?
I admit that I didn't know anything about the mud dauber at the time, and I panicked. It was totally unnecessary for me to kill it. I could have captured it, let it go outside, and then knocked down its nest in the hopes that it would lose interest in my apartment and move on to get rid of some poisonous spiders elsewhere.
However, it could have kept coming into my apartment, and I was worried that someone could have gotten stung accidentally (e.g., rolling over the wasp in bed while trying to turn on a lamp). I just didn't want any kind of a wasp around me and the family at all.
Manzil on July 31, 2020:
It was storing spiders inside a hole of my speaker and plastered it with mud. I destroyed the mud took out the spiders and left them on surface. Now its coming back and relocating its food. Sorry little guy ...chose the wrong hole
Bleu on July 13, 2020:
I don't mind them outside, but I can not have them inside due to the fact I breed and raise tarantulas and they could get at the babies. So unfortunately if one comes in the house it has to be taken care of instantly. Otherwise I leave them alone outside. One has a nest under a window outside and I've left that alone for nature to do its thing outside.
Elsa on July 12, 2020:
A mud dauber has been making a nest in my plastic (hollow) window frame for around four days, and the buzzing noise was scaring me (it happens often and I can see her crawling into my window). I was worried she would make her way into my room so I sealed the entrance and looked up what species she is. I’m worried the larvae will hatch and come inside my house, should I unseal the entrance?
Sharon Pinsley on July 08, 2020:
This is the third year that I have daubers coming into my living room where they have built their nests in very interesting locations: the metaal ring of my wok, in side book shelves and on books! This begings in July until October and it's a nuisance. I wait til night and then destroy the nest that typically has: niymphs, larvae, spiders and a lot of dirt! Wg=hat can I do to keep them out of my place?
Daryl Stein on July 04, 2020:
I keep finding their nests in my garage and removing them. I just want them gone already
MP lady on July 04, 2020:
They have made their nest all over our porch ceiling. They have made their nest in our coffee roaster and all in our garage. Sorry, these guys have to go.
betty on May 20, 2020:
i don't find these domicile I have them just outside my door and every time I go out my door they dodge me and I got stung a couple of time so they are so domicle as u think they are as I got stung
I don't like being stinged on September 17, 2019:
I live in an a Apt building and there is a nest above my neighbors door, if I leave them alone I'll be left a lone?
Cassie on August 18, 2019:
I saw one of these bugs in my bowl of fruit and so I covered the bowl and placed said bowl outside. I did some research to identify what kind of wasp it was and found out it may just be a mud dauber. I want to let it go alive but I also don’t want to risk it returning and possibly put my pet tarantula in danger.
Bob on August 13, 2019:
Bob P, I'm no expert, but that looks like a pretty awesome paper wasp nest.
Drew on July 24, 2019:
Stepped on one when barefoot and he just calmly flew away
Bob Pirkle on July 06, 2019:
Is this a mud daubers nest?
Ray on July 05, 2019:
I have a Mud Dauber's nest on my garage, and i'm not sure if i want to try and take it off. Mud Daubers are harmless, so I feel like I shouldn't take it off. I'm thinking about using peppermint spray.
Bailey on June 28, 2019:
I’m young, and I’m petrified of getting stung or something by these bugs, but now that I know they won’t harm me I am less afraid. However I still would not like them in my home in fear of stepping or rolling onto one. I also do not like their appearance but as long as they are outside and not landing on me they are no bother to me. I am so glad you weigh the pros and cons of these insects so others can be less afraid like me. Keep up the good work, maybe an article on actual honey bees.
Elyse Eblin on June 25, 2019:
That peppermint oil idea works great for me! My porch smells fresh and clean and the mud daubers are learning to utilize the bee house instead of my house!
AngieBen on June 23, 2019:
I think i have a mud dauber on my back porch. The only reason i want to get rid of it is there are droppings on the porch floor underneath the nest.
Is this consistent with mud daubers? I don't see any references to droppings when I research this.
Doreen on June 17, 2019:
For the person who commented that all insects should been killed and that they’re all pests to humans is an ignorant statement. I’m sorry but it’s true and I’m sure many of you would agree with me.
“We” are all part of the circle of life, we all have a purpose.
I’ll share a quick story, I recently had to call a Beekeeper, I noticed bees flying around an area by my garage and of course I was concerned not knowing what kind of bees they were and fearful of getting stung. Come to find out they were Honey Bees! It was so cool, the Beekeeper pulled out three very small honeycombs, told me the Honey is edible, is very sweet and showed me by tasting it himself. Well being the brave and curious woman that I am (hehe) I put my finger to the comb, tasted the Honey and it was delicious! Those bees were making Honey, something we buy in markets! They have a purpose, we all do.
Kim on June 15, 2019:
Okay, there is one of these flying around my Koi pond and crawling across the rocks. It has never been aggressive. I just leave it alone. There is plenty of mud around the pond and I see spiders around the rock, so I guess it is the perfect environment. I'm a little scared of it but after reading this article I believe it means no harm and if I don't bother it, it will not bother me. So, I'm just going to keep leaving it alone. Thanks for the very interesting article.
Mary on May 27, 2019:
Dirt Daubers build many nests under the seats in our pontoon boat e every year, it's MADDENING!!!! Put several moth balls in an old stocking, tie stocking into knot, clip with scissors and make as many as you need for your boat seats. Or, place several moth balls in tiny clay pots and place under seats of pontoon boat.
Mike on April 25, 2019:
I killed all these disgusting insects. I will never understand people who think insects shouldn't be killed -- they are pests to humans and should be eradicated.
Sandra Hammond on April 04, 2019:
I have an infestation of these calm-type Mud Daubers..they are coming down in to my Apt. through the heater somehow..I am using vinegar to discourage them..I trap and take them back outside. There
are too many coming in..I think they will spray the roof venting..
Tyler Armstrong on October 27, 2018:
I was annoyed at first to see that the title of this article on google said outright "and how to get rid of them" because way too many people kill things before they even learn about them, especially with synthetic chemicals, and way too many people have an irrational fear of insects and other arthropods.
People need more education about wasps in particular, as there are SO many types and so few that pose any threat to anyone. So I was glad to see you weigh the pros and cons of keeping them around, and it seems clear that for this type of wasp the pros of having them around far outweigh the cons.
I would never kill these awesome wasps, and I hope more sources on the internet can follow your lead in providing a balanced assessment of co-habitation with various other creatures instead of playing on the uneducated fear that is all too rampant in our society.
Ana Massien from Griffin, Georgia on May 12, 2018:
This is an interesting article. I have a mud dauber in my bathroom window and couldn't figure out why she built a small nest there. Now I am pretty sure its because of spiders.
I was going to say the reason one visited your home maybe is because there were spiders nearby and she was trying to find them. Spiders like to leave a sticky icky sweet residue on things they've nested on or crawled over, perhaps the mud dauber picked up this scent near the painting, because they eat colorful spiders too apparently.
I like your board here on hubpages. I am following.
Also peppermint spray will also get rid of spiders, and if you add a little hot pepper juice to your peppermint spray in the bottle, this will repell wasps and honeybee better.
Marnie on December 09, 2017:
Upon moving in to a new home and going around the house sweeping cob webs, I came across over fifteen mud dauber nests. After knocking them all down only one was active. Very scary!!! In my thirty years living in Adelaide this is the first time I have come across the nests. Are they harmless, I have no idea!!
Keeping the Balance on August 21, 2017:
I grew up with these little guys. They're like daddy long leg spiders...not harmful at all!! I like to spend time in the garage, and noticed a dauber coming and going constantly. Finally realized it was building a "nest" about a foot away from my workbench (and me!), attached to an old dog bed. I was fascinated and enjoyed watching the progress over the next week or so. I got some great pix with my phone. I hate the thought of killing them off - while I'm sure it does happen, I've never met anyone who has ever been stung by one. And we save on exterminators b/c we don't have roaches!! They cut down on flies, too, btw.
Nathan Bernardo (author) from California, United States of America on August 16, 2017:
To tell you the truth, if it were me I'd get rid of it. In fact, that's what I did because I didn't even want to risk even accidentally getting stung or for someone in my house getting stung. For my own peace of mind, that's what I felt I had to do. I've never tried it but it's said that you can just spray it with something called Wasp Freeze and that will kill it. Evidently you can even stand pretty far away from the wasp when you spray it with the stuff. The only other alternative that I can think of is capturing it and releasing it outside.
Ridiculously Scared on August 15, 2017:
I have one mud dauber in my living room. I first noticed it 2 days ago. Yesterday when I got home I saw that it had climbed up a window screen between the screen and the window. I closed the window and it is now trapped in there. I am heartened to hear it is "docile" but when it comes to bugs that can sting I am extremely conflict avoidant. Any thoughts. I am scared of getting close to it. Thank you!!!
Nathan Bernardo (author) from California, United States of America on August 02, 2017:
Hi, Christine. I personally haven't tried anything else other than what I wrote about in this article, but some of the suggestions I've read about include keeping the area clear of spider webs/spiders (because mud daubers eat them), putting out bird feeders so that the birds eat the mud daubers or scare them off and painting eaves and trim of your home pale blue. Many people believe that the pale blue color does deter wasps, it's an old Southern tradition to paint the porch ceiling this color to keep wasps away. One theory is that it fools the wasps into thinking they are looking at the sky.
Christine on August 02, 2017:
Hello ! I just moved in a new apartment and found one of these little fellas (blue mud wasp) in my kitchen on sunday. I had no idea it was a wasp (no yellow line at all, just beautiful shiny blue color) so me and my friend killed it.
Then, surprise surprise: there was a second one in my kitchen this morning. I trapped it in a Tupperware, took a picture so I could identify it (that's how I ended up here) and set it free outdoor.
Problem is, I am allergic to bees/wasps (if I had known it was a wasp I probably would still be locked in the bathroom waiting for the boyfriend to come back home !). I will try the peppermint oil as soon as I get home tonight, but I was wondering: let's say another one finds its way inside and I don't want to kill it nor risk getting stung, is there a way to attrack and trap it safely ? I've read a typical wasp trap won't work on mud wasps/daubers... Any other idea ? I highly doubt I'll try the Tupperware thing again, since I'm not a big fan of emergency rooms... Thanks !
Nathan Bernardo (author) from California, United States of America on July 12, 2017:
That's great that you live peacefully with the mud dauber that nests on your house, very interesting. Makes sense about what you say about light and movement, those other methods you mention could be something to experiment with to see what effects they have.
Sydney on July 12, 2017:
I have a black mud dauber that nests in the siding of my house by my back door. Nearly every day when I go outside she is there...just inches from me. She has never been aggressive at all. I've recently read that about peppermint oil and it makes sense that it would wear off after a few days/weeks...especially if it rains at all. I wonder if the ziplock bag trick works because the water reflects with the sun and wind and creates light and movement? Maybe it's a bit like a scarecrow effect. I wonder if putting up a little pinwheel or attaching some long confetti-type stuff that moves with the wind would do the trick as well. Makes sense anyway.
Lu on July 11, 2017:
I think I just found one of these in my garage. Thanks to your pictures and post, I stopped my husband from destroying it. We are not sure what to do about it, because we have kids in and out of the house. However, if they leave us alone, I like the benefit of the natural insecticide.
Nathan Bernardo (author) from California, United States of America on July 04, 2017:
It's up to you, Gabe. I feel nervous around wasps, to be honest, even these mostly harmless ones; by the off chance of even accidentally getting stung. But they are really pretty harmless, a person would have to attack them for them to sting.
gabe LV on July 04, 2017:
interesting , i also noticed the same behaviors from them , they started 2 little nest in between my windows, there are 2 windows in the corner of my bedroom in a L shape ,they seem to peacefuly stay around their nest and sometimes wander to explore but they never attack me , its been a week they live here , im not used to those wasps so i told myself i would destroy their little nest at night but keep forgetting about them since they dosent really bother me, sure they are creepy looking but in a week they never tried to harm me. Not sure what to do with them , should i keep them even if there no venomous/poisonous spiders where i live ?
alex on June 25, 2017:
Thanks for posting, i just destroyed 3 nests a few hours ago, now i feal so bad about it, i also have spider problems, i guess il just letthem stay from now on, and i have to spred the word... :)))
Marie on June 19, 2017:
Thank you! I had four nests pop up in the past four days, and since I have a lot of spiders that tend to make it inside you've persuaded me to leave the nests be. Might as well see if they help reduce the number of spiders before evicting them from the garage.
Nathan Bernardo (author) from California, United States of America on June 12, 2014:
That's exactly how I felt about it, jtrader. I just didn't want to take a chance.
Thanks for stopping by and reading and glad you liked the article.
jtrader on June 12, 2014:
Good tips here on how to deal with the problem. That one may have been harmless but you never know when one will just feel threatened and attack.
Nathan Bernardo (author) from California, United States of America on June 09, 2014:
That is definitely a vulnerable position to be in the shower when the wasps come into the home. It's my feeling that if they're around where people live, they need to be gotten rid of.
The peppermint spray is effective, they stay off of my patio when I spray it; but I do have to refresh it often.
Thanks for stopping by.
Mary Wickison from Brazil on June 09, 2014:
I have these all over. Inside and outside the house. Sometimes they are the tube types you show and other times they are round mud huts. (This could be a different wasp which builds with mud). I have had them come in through the bathroom louvers while I am in the shower. You can't believe how vulnerable you feel when you are naked, wet, and have a smooth tile floor. No quick getaways or it could lead to a concussion when you smack your head from sliding on a tile floor with wet feet..
I tend to kill them otherwise they keep building in the same spot. I didn't know about peppermint oil.
I would also like to note that at least here in Brazil, they also take caterpillars back to their mud apartments as well. Another bonus.