Christmas Bells

Christmas Bells
Christmas Bells - Blandfordia nobilis

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Life and slow death on the front verandah

Today Zoe asked me to remove a new Mud Wasp nest on her window, out on the front verandah. As this is Zoe's favourite sitting area, I agreed to remove the nests, before the wasps got too fond of going back to that spot, time and time again.

The basic safety of humans does count, a bit, in this household.

Anyway, it turned out to be a bit more macabre than I had anticipated. The first thing was that one of the two nests was not completed, and I could see some spotted or bi-coloured creature moving around inside the nest.

I assumed that this was a spider, as I have previously seen wasps carrying or dragging spiders towards their nests.

Turns out both nests had caterpillars inside. Both were still alive, though slightly paralysed.

The Caterpillars were about 4 cm long, and each nest was about 2.5 cm in diameter. I am giving the dimensions, as this nest resembles a large Mexican clay stove. It was quite small (smaller than an Aussie 20 cent coin).

This is what the wasps do, to provide food for their larvae. They sting their prey and semi-paralyse their victims, then lay an egg inside the nest.

I actually thought they laid their egg inside the body of the prey, but evidence in one case clearly shows otherwise.

The last photo clearly shows the larva (or is it the developing egg) inside the remains of the nest, after I had broken it off the window.

From a nature lover's point of view, I can only claim one good aspect of my human intervention. That is, the two caterpillars, which were surely doomed to a terrible, slow death, were despatched under my boot, to a quick death.

I am sure that the wasp will be back making new nests somewhere around the house - but I hope it is not to be at head height on my front verandah.

1 comment:

Denis Wilson said...

Gaye from the Hunter sent me the following comment.

Hi Denis,
I'm just catching up on some of your spider posts. Mud-nest wasps are fascinating to watch, and no doubt they will soon be searching out nesting spots around my home again.

I have observed that the Mud Dauber Wasps, Sceliphron laetum, fill their mud nursery chambers with spiders, while the Potter Wasps, Eumenes latreilli, fill their mud nests with caterpillars. Strange how this must be programmed in the genes.

I have also observed that the Mud Dauber Wasps build cylinder-type chambers, and the Potter wasps build dome or pot-shaped chambers.

They are not aggressive and are easy to observe as they go about their busy task of nest building.

I made a blog entry on these two wasps nesting around my home that you might be interested in:
Entombed and eaten alive