Monday, November 27, 2006

Home wrecker Pt III

And now the home maker!

After me huffing and puffing and blowing her house down big bad wolflike, my dauber has returned to effect repairs. I hope it's early days yet, as it looks a tad light weight. Haven't caught her in action yet, but she did rush over to see the damage as I stood there in consternation after my evil deed.

(of course this could be it, finito- she's washed her wings of it - I've read that when researchers have done nasty things like removed the food provisions and eggs from individual cells, the wasp still nonchalantly goes on plastering over and finishing off the empty cell. Now that's my kind of woman! Imperturbable)

Home wrecker Pt II

Well, a flash of memory last night just after I switched off the computer, and snail's gentle nudge in the comment on yesterday's post reminded me that I know perfectly well that my mud daubers must be Sphecid wasps.
They are more commonly called sand wasps, which is an awfully confusing and misleading name, many wasps in the family Sphecidae are mud daubers, dabbers, brickies and general pottery experts.

Individual species specialise in specific types of prey - so it's likely that this locally common dauber specialises in crab spiders, as she is quite a smallish wasp. Spiders are a great deal more abundant here than Lepidopteran larvae (due in no small part in my opinion to the overabundance of exotic pest paperwasps, Polistes sp).

Perhaps due to the abundance of baby food, the spider-specialty daubers are en masse on the farm - in every nook, cranny and crevice. Stand too still for too long and they will investigate any available orifice for nursery sites. Earholes are favoured.
They use driza-bones, boots, car engines, tools, tractor seats, garden gloves and probably more naturally occurring sites too (but I haven't seen that - maybe like swallows they have abandoned the natural for the much more convenient and abundant anthropogenic). Just like the Megachilid bees.
Which reminds me of another reason to love Sphecids - bees are commonly referred to as sphecoid like, and are believed to have derived from Sphecids. In effect, just Sphecids that provision their nurseries with pollen and nectar rather than arthropods.

But custom hasn't staled their infinity variety for me, and I never tire of their ingenious and often decorative creations. (A more tidy hausfrau than I could be driven into a cadenza. There's a nice thought).

Sunday, November 26, 2006

The home wrecker

I had to clean my verandah today. Unfortunately it has to be done from time to time. But I felt as guilty as the barbarian hordes sacking Rome's finest should have felt when I realized I had unwittingly destroyed the fine nursery of a mud dauber wasp.

She had carefully created every cell, and stocked each larder in it with the local spider-fare. It had progressed to the stage where the wasp larvae were quite well developed and visible. You can see one in the top right, attached to the meaty bits of the spider.
Most of the spiders seem to be crab or jumping spiders, something I've noticed before when I've had similar disturbing experiences, for example opening a window (well you have to have fresh air sometimes. Every window in the house is mortared with wasp nests).
Once when accidently peeling open a very fresh nest I was confronted with the most absolute rainbow of flower spiders, it was superb. Each one however beyond rescuscitation.

I'm a bit unsure about the identity of these locally very common mud daubers and potter wasps. The ones I see are always a plain black very discreet looking animal. Most Eumeninae, according to the literature, collect Lepidopteran larvae for their young, which these ones clearly don't. So obviously some homework for me to do.

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