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Garden Allies: Wasps

Articles: Garden Allies: Wasps

Much as wasps invented paper long before humans came upon the utility of that now ubiquitous product, other wasps were working as potters and masons before we discovered how to work clay. Many earthen wasp nests are hidden inside stems or far below ground, small and difficult to observe. But potter wasps build their nests in the open, a single, graceful, narrow-necked earthen pot, a mere ½ inch in diameter. Marveling at its fragile perfect miniature form, if you are lucky enough to come across one, it is easy to revert to childhood belief in magical beings.

Potter wasp on nest (Eumenes sp.) Illustration: Craig Latker

Female potter wasps build their beautiful pots, often on stems, leaves, or small twigs, as housing for their larvae. Each pot is provisioned with a paralyzed caterpillar, spider, or beetle, and a single laid egg, positioned on the inside of the curved wall above the hapless prey, before the pot is carefully sealed. Potter wasps can be recognized by their curious “double waist’’ an adaptation for bending their abdomen into the inside curve of their pot. Potter wasps’ propensity for capturing c...

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