Tiny Mud Pots

This week’s blog was written by Jonathan H., a Brookies alumni. Jonathan has always been interested and passionate about wildlife and conservation. He enjoys hiking, nature photography, boating, and fishing in his free time. Attending WLA has deepened Jonathan’s involvement and interest in conservation and he intends to continue doing what he can to make a positive impact on his community. WLA has also helped him come to realize that he is truly interested in entering the ecology and conservation field as a career. Jonathan hopes to help educate others about the importance of conservation and to help others develop a passion for the natural world around them.

On logs, walls, and tarps, I’ve discovered mysterious mud pots. These strange handleless pots at first look like little ancient archaeological finds. Each pot has been slightly different in shape, but they all have a narrow neck with a flared rim, being about half an inch in diameter.

Potter wasp pot attached to the underside of a log
Wasp pot appearing to have already had its egg hatch because of its unsealed opening
The underside of this pot appears to have a uniform pattern

Although appearing to have come from some long lost ancient civilization, the true source of these structures is Microdynerus arenicolus, the Antioch Potter Wasp. This solitary wasp species builds this mud pot like structure for its offspring, building it one mouthful of mud at a time. What the wasp does afterwards is it will place a paralyzed caterpillar and an egg inside the pot and seal the opening. When the wasp egg hatches, the larva will consume the caterpillar and then proceed to spin itself a cocoon. After the new adult hatches, it will hunt caterpillars, eat nectar, and create its own pottery for its own offspring. This peculiar niche role filled by the potter wasp is yet another one of nature’s little known, but awe inspiring surprises.

The photos used in this blog belong to the author.