Potter Wasp Giving Finishing Touches

Potter Wasp

Potter Wasp Giving Finishing Touches
Potter Wasp Giving Finishing Touches

When I was doing a shootout for the review of Canon EF 100mm f/2.8L Macro IS USM I found this potter wasp at my garden building its nest. Unfortunately when i noticed she had built most of the nest and has gathered caterpillar to be served as food for her new born larvae. I was only able to take photos of her closing the beautiful nest. All these photos were taken using Canon EF 100mm f/2.8L Macro IS USM on Canon EOS 7D using Canon Speedlite 580EX II with Rayflash adapter.

Potter wasps, also known as mason wasps, are very interesting insects that are named for the way and the form in which they build their hives. They are truly pottery artists and create unique and beautiful pot-like homes for their off-springs. There are many things about the potter wasp that makes them stand out from the rest and here are some interesting facts that you may not know about these unusual insects.

It is the female potter wasps that do all the construction on their homes, rather than the males.Possibly the simplest of the potter wasp constructions is made with mud and has tiny cells between the layers. The female will either gather droplets of water soon after rain fall mixed with her own saliva to make the mud. It is truly an amazing process!

Potter Wasp
Potter Wasp

Another of the homes that the potter wasp creates is made with mud like the first, but the shape is different. Rather than being a plain round shape, these are round with a thin neck at the top, much like a cork bottle or special vase.

The common potter wasp is primarily black in color, but it also has yellow or red markings on the thorax or abdomen. There are also some interesting tropical species that can have green or blue markings.

Female potter wasps take less than one day to completely build a nest. There are some female potter wasps that will make their nests out of pre-existing holes, but this is not as common as the lady who will start from scratch.

Potter wasps hunt for Beetle larva or caterpillars and paralyze them with their sting. They fly these paralyzed caterpillars to the hive they created. They lay their eggs on these larvae inside nests, one egg in each cell. and then seals off the cells to protect the babies. The sealed caterpillar lives till the eggs hatch and becomes food for the newly hatched wasp baby.

Paralyzed Captive Caterpillar inside The Nest
Paralyzed Captive Caterpillar inside The Nest

The potter wasp’s nest is rumored to have been the original inspiration for the Indian pottery that it so strongly resembles.

The diet of potter wasps consists primarily of nectar, spiders, beetle larvae, and young caterpillars.

Some potter wasps build their nests underground, but most have them hanging from a branch or limb above the ground. This is where you can look for one of your own to keep as a decorative piece. Be sure, of course, that it is an empty one or you may have one very angry wasp to deal with!

EXIF info - Aperture : ƒ/8 | Camera : Canon EOS 7D | Taken : 23 November, 2009 | Flash fired : yes | Focal length : 100mm | ISO : 100 | Location : 13° 4′ 1.7997600119994″ N 74° 59′ 44.314800313234″ E | Shutter speed : 1/125s | Images and content Copyright © Krishna Mohan. Please contact me to purchase prints or for image publication license.
EXIF info - Aperture : ƒ/8 | Camera : Canon EOS 7D | Taken : 23 November, 2009 | Flash fired : yes | Focal length : 100mm | ISO : 100 | Location : 13° 4′ 1.7997600119994″ N 74° 59′ 44.314800313234″ E | Shutter speed : 1/125s | Images and content Copyright © Krishna Mohan. Please contact me to purchase prints or for image publication license.
EXIF info - Aperture : ƒ/8 | Camera : Canon EOS 7D | Taken : 23 November, 2009 | Flash fired : yes | Focal length : 100mm | ISO : 100 | Location : 13° 4′ 1.7997600119994″ N 74° 59′ 44.314800313234″ E | Shutter speed : 1/125s | Images and content Copyright © Krishna Mohan. Please contact me to purchase prints or for image publication license.

21 thoughts on “Potter Wasp

  1. Ha ha ha doc, your last paragraph reminds me of my primary school days when we would really search the bushes poking our fingers in every hole to get the ‘pot’ , never knowing what made them. Though I never got one and fortunately retain all my fingers 🙂

  2. Thanks for a fab picture, and so much detail. I was directed to your page by whatsthatbug.com after finding one of these beasts in my cottage in India, where I’m working for a few months. I’ve never seen anything like it before, and your info was very interesting.

  3. Dear Steve Sargent,
    Thanks for visiting my web page and for your compliments. Potter wasps are pretty common wasps here. As you can see I regularly (once a week) post my photos and observation here on my blog. Keep visiting.

  4. Thank you very much for your post. I have three “pots” attached to my curtain since the end of this summer. Here is a photo of them: http://2.bp.blogspot.com/-csmYfQIMMVg/TsZVJlPnA7I/AAAAAAAABjk/mm9d0VOYrzQ/s1600/comlek.JPG
    They are still sealed. Do you know when the baby wasps will hatch their eggs and come out of the nest? I would love to observe them doing this. And also it would be good to know as I should leave the window open during their times of hatch.

  5. Thanks for visiting my website. Inside all those pots are a caterpillar which will be food for those wasps. Usually they hatch in 10-15 days. Once they break open you will see fully grown young wasps coming out. You can leave them out by opening window then.
    Let me know how it goes on.
    Thanks and keep visiting

  6. Wonderful pictures Krishna. Keep posting. Can I use your pictures to educate my students? I have advised them to visit your posts and learn. They are the post-graduate students who have opted for Entomology Specialization. I teach them evolution of social behaviour as a part the course. I do have my own pictures but your are out of the world!

  7. I found a series of tiny mud pots built down the central stem of a maidenhair fern leaf. Beautiful.Unfortunately missed seeing either the process of building or the emergence of the baby wasps.

  8. My comment got sent before I could say thank you for the information and photos. Both were most welcome. We have many mud nests made by wasps on our farm but I haven’t seen this particular kind before.

  9. Potter wasps, the Eumeninae, are a cosmopolitan wasp group presently treated as a subfamily of Vespidae, but sometimes recognized in the past as a separate family, Eumenidae.

  10. I recently shot a picture of this wasp paralyzing a caterpillar. I wanted to identify the wasp. Lucky i found this article here. Thanks for the info.

  11. many thanks to you for the pictures and information. I write weekly nature mails to some six dozen friends for motivating them to protect and conserve. in my latest mail I have included an Englished passage from Marathi about potter wasp mothers. I learned much from your piece. I have many pictures of pots and wasps. aif you write me a line at my e mail ID, I can send you my latest nature mail. I use only point and shoot cameras, by the way. With good wishes to you and Dr. Dharmendra Sheth of Surat, Gujarat, close friend, who sent me your piece, Sudhakar Marathe.

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