What Are Mud Dauber Wasps and How to Get Rid of Them
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
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.
Have you dealt with mud dauber wasps?
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.