Now, Back to the Spiders

My apologies for the delay in getting back to explain the handful of spiders pic. Let me just say that work has been quite hectic lately and I was simply too tired to post. Seems I am not the energizer bunny of cyberspace ;)

Now, for the spiders' tale of woe...

On Sunday Treebeard accompanied me to work. He is a park volunteer now and quite handy to have around. Not only is he very knowledgeable about all things natural, he really enjoys sharing his knowledge with others -- a valuable asset! He is also extremely observant. Just before closing time he noticed the spiders floating on the canal and called me over. We fished them out and I immediately suspected we had found the contents of a mud dauber's (or dirt dauber, if you prefer) nest.

If you are not familiar with daubers, let me give you a brief rundown...A dauber is a spider wasp, she builds a nest of mud that consists of a series of individual chambers. The wasp hunts spiders, stings them and crams several into a chamber, laying an egg on the last one before sealing the chamber. The spiders are not dead -- dead ones would decay and that would be a bad thing. When the egg hatches, the young grub begins to munch on the bounty left by its mom. After it eats what has been provided and grows sufficiently, it pupates and then emerges as an adult the next spring. Pretty cool, eh?

If you look at the pictures below you will notice an egg on a spider's leg in the first photo and in the second you will see a grub munching away on a spider's abdomen.


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How the contents of a dauber's nest ended up floating in the canal is a mystery. Some critter looking for a snack may have broken open the nest or perhaps the wake of a passing boat saturated a nest that had been built under the dock, causing it to dissolve. It's anyone's guess.


Jason tells me that the terms dirt dauber and mud dauber refer to two very different types of wasps. Dirt daubers use dry dirt and regurgitated water to construct their nests while the mud daubers use actual mud. Jason was afraid I would be offended by his contridiction of my use of the terms -- silly Jason.
My post deals with mud daubers by this definition, so if you preferred to call them dirt daubers, don't. ;)

Check out Jason's most excellent photos on his web page: http://www.xenogere.com
He also has some very nice cats...


Ellen Rathbone said...

VERY cool! Still, my heart goes out to the spiders. To remain alive and aware of being eaten...that's gotta be about the worse thing possible. Fortunately, spiders probably aren't too intellectual and don't agonize (mentally) over being eaten alive.

Still, it makes me shudder.

swamp4me said...

From a people-perspective it is sort of creepy. But I'm sure the little grub appreciates the fresh meat ;)

Anonymous said...

Swampy- Trust you to be able to photograph the egg and grub to teach me something new about mud daubers! Amazing photos as usual! Tres bien! Maineiac

nfmgirl said...

Those are the coolest pics! Last year I was out in my garden when a wasp went flying buy with a green caterpillar hanging in its grasp. I followed it to it's nest behind my deck, and watched as it crammed the caterpillar into the opening in the nest! It was amazing! I had no idea until then that they do that! Very cool!

But for you to find this treasure trove! Nature at work is the best!

jason said...

I'm extremely adverse to posting comments that contradict--so please badger me with 'troll' monikers as appropriate--but I wanted to offer this: mud daubers and dirt daubers are very different wasp species.

Mud daubers look for wet dirt and can only build nests out of existing mud; dirt daubers look for dry soil and regurgitate water to make mud for building nests. Dirt daubers include the common potter wasp (Eumenes fraternus) and mud daubers include the common mud wasp (Sceliphron caementarium).

Please feel free to bludgeon me with whatever names seem appropriate for offering a correction on this point.

Anonymous said...

Mud daubers (or dirt daubers) are my heroes.


swamp4me said...

That was the first time I had seen the egg and grub stage -- I am adverse to destroying wasp nests of any sort. I am not adverse to taking advantage of an opportunity when it presents itself, however ;)

Wasps fascinate me. I have sat in the blazing sun for long stretches of time watching while a wasp transported a katydid much larger than itself and stuffed it down a nearly invisible hole in the ground and then flew off to catch another. Awesome!

jason, jason, jason,
What am I going to do with one such as you...Sharing what you know and increasing my knowledge and the knowledge of my readers? That's just outright dastardly ;)
Seriously, thanks for the info. Around here the two terms are interchangeable -- some folks call them dirt daubers, some mud daubers, but all are referring to the genus Trypoxylon - the pipe organ mud dauber. From now on I will strive to communicate the difference.

swamp4me said...

Perhaps a whole host of daubers will take up residence on your new deck and protect you from the spiders :)

Sally said...

Thanks for explaining-- I could not figure out how you came by those spiders! Quite a story... dare I ask what you did with them? Can they recover (if not half-eaten that is)?

Ours is the blue mud dauber (Chalybion, I believe)-- a lovely wasp! We also see Sceliphron at times.

swamp4me said...

I pitched the spiders in some tall grass in the hopes that some other critter would come along and have a snack. There was no cure for their condition -- at least none that I know of.