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Inside Look at Organ Pipe Mud Dauber Wasp Cells

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Each “pipe” of the Organ Pipe Mud Dauber nest consists of several sealed cells (four, in this photograph), each stuffed with spiders (typically orb-spinning spider species) and one wasp egg. When the egg hatches, the white wasp larva consumes the paralyzed spiders, which are still fresh because they are still alive. Eventually, upon finishing the spiders, the larva will form a pupa case, and spend the winter inside it. In the spring the adult wasp will emerge from the case and chew its way out of the mud cell. If you look closely at the open, back side of these three “pipes” you can see that the oldest pipe is on the left, and contains cells with wasp larvae, whereas you can see mud dauber eggs lying on top of the spiders in two of the cells on the far right, in the most recently built pipe.

5 responses

  1. Kathie Fiveash

    Is the egg the little sausage-shaped white thing at the bottom of the cell in photo 2? The the larva is the big, white, wormy fella in picture 3? Is the picture that shows all three pipes taken from a different vantage (from the back as opposed to from the front) than the other two shots? I am having trouble matching the close ups with the picture of the whole shebang. Did you open the cells with a razor or something? I am surprised to see the vertical striations in the pipes since in the previous post, it looks like the wasp is building horizontally striated cells. Wish I could magnify that first photo!

    July 18, 2012 at 1:15 pm

    • Kathie,
      Yes, the egg is at the bottom of the 2nd photo, and the large white grub in the 3rd photo is the wasp larva. All three photographs were taken from the back of the tubes, which I lifted off the wall of a house in order to photograph. (They are now against a flat surface again, and hopefully will overwinter and emerge in the spring.) The vertical striations in the pipes that you see reflect the texture of the wood against which the cells were built.

      July 18, 2012 at 1:39 pm

      • Kathie, I’ll post a single shot of the nest which hopefully will be larger than the slideshow image.

        July 18, 2012 at 1:48 pm

  2. Susan Holland

    How cool to get a look inside! Does each cell have just one spider or several?

    July 18, 2012 at 4:48 pm

    • Each cell has many spiders — anywhere from 3 – 6, all crammed in there. Legs were starting to move as I photographed them!

      July 18, 2012 at 7:47 pm

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