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Potter Wasp

Summary: When you think of a wasp, you probably think back to the time in the second grade when you got stung on the playground. Well, one species of wasp called the potter wasp is a neat little bug that creates unique works of art. Read on to find out more.

The potter wasp derives its name from the unusual pot-like nest it builds. It is also known as the mason wasp. It grows up to 0.79 long and is black with markings of yellow or red on its thorax or abdomen. Some tropic potter wasps have green or blue markings. An interesting fact about the potter wasp's body is that it has an itty, bitty little waist. Its body almost resembles a dumbbell shape.

The nests of the different potter wasp species are quite intriguing. First of all, the females construct them without any help from the males. One type of nest they construct is made up of separate cells, with mud in between them to hold them together. The females gather droplets of water to mix with dirt to make the mud. They may also use their saliva to make the mud adhesive. They will then take tiny chips of wood and stick them to the mud. This completes their little nest abode.

Another type of house that potter wasps create truly resembles a work of art. It looks like pottery because of its shape and texture. These nests tend to be large and round, with thin necks at the top. (Actually, legend has it that Native Americans based their pottery designs off of those of the potter wasps.) These pot-shaped nests are also constructed out of mud. It takes a potter wasp about a half a day to finish her nest. Look for these interesting homes hanging off of tree branches or small twigs.

Although this is not as common as a made-from-scratch home, potter wasps can create nests out of pre-existing areas. For example, the wasps may nest in holes where beetles dug tunnels, nails were once hammered, or screw shafts were made. For ultimate protection from bigger animals, weather conditions, and humans, potter wasps may make their nests underground. If mud is unavailable for their nests, they might construct them out of chewed grass.

The foods of choice for the potter wasp are nectar and hairless caterpillars. Sounds tasty! In fact, adult potter wasps feed caterpillars to their young. The wasps kill by stinging their victims, thereby paralyzing them. They gather up the juicy caterpillars and bring them back to their muddy, pot-shaped nests. The female then lays her eggs on top of the caterpillars' bodies. (She typically lays one egg per cell in the nest.) I can't imagine being born on top of a grimy bug.

Some researchers have reported that female potter wasps can take up to an hour to catch one caterpillar, beetle larva, or spider to feed to her young. And I thought cleaning the house was exhausting. Later, each young potter wasp may consume up to a dozen caterpillars while it is growing.

After the mother potter wasp is done laying all her eggs, she seals each cell to protect her larvae from predators. She then passes out on top of a grassy area, which may or may not be near her nest.

The interesting thing about the potter wasp is that it is beneficial to humans. It seems strange that a bug that can sting us would be viewed as advantageous, but it is true. Because the wasp will eat pests that humans usually swat or squash, we have one less spider or beetle to worry about. If you notice spiders living in your basement or attic, you could plant some potter wasp larvae to grow and eat the spiders. Of course, you might start a potter wasp colony. So, perhaps leaving them outside to eat insects is the best option.

Another cool thing about the potter wasp is that you can keep its nest. It is a tiny little work of art that a creature only a fraction of your size created. The easiest way to remove a nest from a twig or branch is to slice it off carefully with a sharp object. Why not start a collection?

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