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Potter wasp

family Vespidae


This is the nest of the potter wasp an architectural marvel. Generally a round cylinder with a hole made of mud. It is believed that many of the Native Americans used this design as a template for their clay pots. In the notes is a description on how the nest is formed and used - see the reference for the full story.


Spotted under an eve at a house by Lake Conroe.


The female wasp begins by finding a wet patch of sandy soil. Using her mandibles, she rolls a portion of the muddy soil into a ball, which she carries back to deposit on the nest site, spread out and mix with saliva to increase its hardness. This tedious procedure involves repeated mud-gathering trips until an adobe-like round brood cell takes shape. When the structure is an appropriate size (big enough to accommodate one egg and enough food to sustain its growth) the female flies off to stock the nest with caterpillars.When the wasp finds a caterpillar, she stings it just enough venom to cause paralysis but not death. She then lugs the inert bug back to the cell to stuff inside the small round opening she left in the jug-like structure. After much effort, the hole is filled with from one to 12 caterpillars. The sex of the future wasp depends upon the number of the caterpillars upon which it will feast. In nests containing more than five caterpillars, a female wasp will emerge. If the nest contains fewer caterpillars, the wasp will be male.Once she has secured an adequate food supply, the female lays a single egg suspended above the caterpillar mass by a strong thread, backs out of the hole and covers the opening with more balls of mud moistened and smoothed out with saliva. At this point, her responsibilities to that particular egg are over and she is ready to repeat the procedure for her next future offspring. Meanwhile, inside its mud incubator, the developing wasp larva feeds on the fresh meat of the unfortunate caterpillars until the food is gone and the wasp is ready to leave the nest. At that point, the emerging potter wasp drills though the side of its adobe abode to begin the cycle anew.

No species ID suggestions


Mark Ridgway
Mark Ridgway 10 months ago

Fascinating notes. Thanks Brian.

Brian38 10 months ago

Thank you Ashley for the nomination.

Joseph CHIEF REDEARTH 10 months ago

Congratulations Brian, on SOTW!

AshleyT 10 months ago

Your spotting has been nominated for the Spotting of the Week. The winner will be chosen by the Project Noah Rangers based on a combination of factors including: uniqueness of the shot, status of the organism (for example, rare or endangered), quality of the information provided in the habitat and description sections. There is a subjective element, of course; the spotting with the highest number of Ranger votes is chosen. Congratulations on being nominated!

Jan Cuales
Jan Cuales 10 months ago

Thanks for the description and notes!

Texas, USA

Lat: 30.43, Long: -95.56

Spotted on Nov 22, 2017
Submitted on Dec 4, 2017

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