The amazing pottery skills of a wasp

Picture of a mud wasp pot nest.

Mud wasp nest

A potter wasp makes clay jars and stocked them well for her offspring.

A lot of work was involved.

Just to get and transport the clay, she can fly between 100 and 200 miles (160 and 320 km).

If the clay is too dry, she wets it by regurgitating water.

She forms the clay into pellets and uses them to make a disk that becames the base for a pot.

As the work progressed, the other pellets are drawn into strips and used to build a hollow globe.

Turning the inside of the completed sphere out at the top, she creates an open neck for her vessel.

The outside surface of her pot is rough, but the inside is smooth.

Next, a food supply is needed.

To stock the vessel, she paralyzes small caterpillars with her sting and pokes these into the jar.

Since the caterpillars are not dead, this assures a fresh food supply for the wasp larva that will hatch from the only egg in each vessel.

The egg hangs on a fine thread from the top of the pot.

How does the egg come to be in this position?

In the process of laying it, the wasp touches the inside of the vessel with the tip of her abdomen and secretes a liquid.

As the abdomen is pulled away, a thread forms and immediately hardens.

So, when the egg comes out, it is attached to the thread.

For females, the number of caterpillars is greater than for males—the female larval stage is one or two days longer.

Just how the wasp knows that a particular egg will be a female larva and needs more food is a mystery.

With a clay pellet, the wasp closes the jar containing the egg and the stock of caterpillars and smoothed down the neck of the vessel.

When the last pot is sealed the wasp’s work was done.