The flying potter
I was lucky enough to get a shot of this little beauty, the other morning ,when I noticed it perched on a fern on my balcony. It’s been identified as a “Potter Wasp” – though it’s unique form of “pottery” serves a much more sinister purpose than that usually associated with this genteel craft.
If you zoom into the picture, you’ll see that the wasp has a caterpillar in its clutches, with the caterpillar’s head just visible by the wasp’s mouth and it’s tail arching up near the wasp’s right wing. Whilst it appears that the caterpillar is about to become the main course on the wasps “breakfast menu” , the wasp has other plans for this unfortunate creature. Once the Potter Wasp successfully hunts down a live caterpillar, it usually paralyses it and then carries it off to its carefully constructed, miniature mud-nest (hence the name “Potter Wasp”) Once it arrives at the mud-nest (or cell) it deposits the live caterpillar inside along with one of its own eggs and then seals -off the cell. When the wasp’s egg eventually hatches the emerging larvae has a “ready meal” waiting for it – in the form of a caterpillar.
Wikipedia says: “The name “potter wasp” derives from the shape of the mud nests built by species of Eumenes and similar genera. It is believed that Native Americans based their pottery designs upon the form of local potter wasp nests. [von Frisch, 1974].” It goes on to say; “When a cell (tiny mud nest) is completed, the adult wasp typically collects beetle larvae, spiders or caterpillars and, paralysing them, places them in the cell to serve as food for a single wasp larva. As a normal rule, the adult wasp lays a single egg in the empty cell before provisioning it. Some species lay the egg in the opening of the cell, suspended from a thread of dried fluid. When the wasp larva hatches, it drops and start to feed upon the supplied prey for a period of time that normally last some few weeks before pupating. The complete life cycle may last from a few weeks to more than a year from the egg until the adult emerges. Adult potter wasps feed on floral nectar.”