Sunday, May 15, 2011

Mud Pots

Last summer I wrote a blog about the wasps that gather on a patch of fennel near my home. Click here to read it. 

One of the most interesting wasps was a mud-dauber in the family Eumenes. The mud wasps build elegant little pots out of mud. Click here to see a You-tube video of a mud pot being made -- it's cool. 

I am revisiting this because I recently found some empty pots on the wall of a building in southern New Jersey, near Atlantic City. Just two empty pots and no sign of the builder.

What I didn't mention in last summer's blog is why the wasps make mud pots. The pots are nurseries. Tiny somewhat gruesome little nurseries. A mother wasp captures an unfortunate insect -- a caterpillar, cricket, or spider depending on what species of wasp is shopping. She deposits the paralyzed thing in a fresh mud pot, lays an egg on it, and seals it. When the wasp egg hatches, a fresh meal is waiting and will serve throughout the wasp's early development. Talk about your inherently cruel nature!

It makes me think of Tennyson, of  "nature, red in tooth and claw..."

        From In Memoriam A.H.H., by Alfred Tennyson       

Are God and Nature then at strife,
That Nature lends such evil dreams?
So careful of the type she seems,
So careless of the single life;
That I, considering everywhere
Her secret meaning in her deeds,
And finding that of fifty seeds
She often brings but one to bear

There is more information about urban and suburban birds in my book, Field Guide to Urban Wildlife, published by Stackpole Books. It's available now from,, and -- links are on the right of the page.  


  1. My 4 yr old and I found two mud pots on a gardenia bush in our front yard a couple of days ago. We were doing some online research to figure out what they were when we came across your blog, which was very helpful. Now she isn't sure whether we should "keep them" or not as she doesn't want wasps buzzing around. I told her we'd watch them and see what happens. The weird thing is that I have never noticed them anywhere else. Thanks for the info! Jill (Little Rock, AR)

    1. It's really exciting to find them, isn't it? I bet now that you have noticed them you will find more. Best, Julie