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Porches are inviting to more than family and friends

PHOTO PROVIDED Each tube consists of several cells. The top and bottom cell are occupied with an immature, overwintering organ pipe mud dauber.

During the warm months, the front porch can be a gathering place for family and neighbors. A place to relax and greet people and even settle down for an extended conversation. But that same inviting characteristic attracts more than humans.

One of the more common visitors are the mud dauber wasps. When the word ‘wasp’ is mentioned, the first thought goes to aggressive stinging insect that live in large colonies. These are very organized and live in constant cooperation with others. Almost quite the opposite for the mud dauber as they are solitary insects (lives and hunts by itself).

Mud daubers are named for the mud nests they construct for their offspring. The female will collect mud and take it back to the nesting site. Her mouthparts mold the mud and then places it onto various porch structures.

While they have stingers, they are not aggressive and would only defend themselves if picked up and held (note: do not pick up). And we should welcome these guests. They can be a gardeners’ best friend as they are considered beneficial.

Once the female constructs her nest, she hunts insects (with her stinger) and placed into each cell. A single egg is then placed next to the food source and then sealed. After several cells are sealed, the female flies off and never returns. The eggs hatch and feed upon the sealed insect. The young overwinter as pupae and will emerge as adults in the following spring.

So not only are they passive around humans, they are preying upon insects in the garden and landscape. The nests themselves are doing no damage to the porch structure and can be scrapped off and discarded if in an undesirable area. Just be aware that eliminating the mud dauber nests now will remove the overwintering young.

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