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Wasps in the Windchimes

July 6, 2007

100_1491
Chers Amis,

All summer we have been watching pipe organ mud daubers at work flying in and out of our wind chimes carrying loads of red Georgia Clay. We could hear them hum100_1500ming as they worked, their songs reverberating through the long steel tubs that tinkled in the breeze. Sometimes they sounded irritated or frustrated with their labors or angry when a competitor flew in to scope out the territory.  Pippin found it funny to tap on the tubes and watch them scatter for a few minutes. 
This afternoon he tried ringing the chimes with the metal handle of DH’s hot tub net. "CRASH!" The impact cracked open the mud tube sending debris all over the deck.  When we rushed over to see what had happened, we found 18 tiny  paralyzedCrab_spider_2
elegant crab spiders
amidst the shattered mud remains.  I wasn’t sure what was worse, that all the wasp’s work went to naught or the idea of being a poor paralyzed prey waiting for the wasp egg to hatch and eat me. I shudder and then I shuttered 🙂 

The girls immediately informed me of the habits and life cycle of the wasp, how each cells is stuffed with live spiders and then one egg is laid and the compartment 100_1501
sealed. (Do all 9 and 10 year old girls know this? Mine know all about wasps and nothing about pop music –  go figure!) The young wasp will devour the spiders before opening a small hole in the side of the tube and emerging. Here is a picture of a complex of  tubes built on our siding right next to the hot tub.  Prime real estate! You can clearly see the exit hole.  The center tube is still occupied. Rather than be repulsed, we decided to pull out the nature notebooks, colored pencils and Scarlett’s new watercolors for some summertime study.  This interesting article at Riverview Press suggests that mud dauber nests can be collected in late fall, winter or early spring and dissected  while the larva are in a resting state.  They serve as an interesting addition/substitute for owl pellets for teaching ‘ecological concepts.’  Hmm. We may have to try that some chilly February day in ’08!  I’ll keep you posted.

–Marjorie

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3 Comments leave one →
  1. July 7, 2007 7:08 am

    Oh, my. I still have a problem leaving wasp nests alone — fear of being stung. We don’t seem to have mud daubers here, though, and our common wasps can be rather aggressive.

  2. July 8, 2007 3:02 pm

    Fascinating!

  3. July 9, 2007 10:17 am

    That is crazy!

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