“I have often been intrigued when watching wasps drink water. It is not an uncommon observation when I am out bird watching and even in our own garden. At our home they will come to our bird bath and sip water. Some sites have suggested that wasps are ‘thirst creatures’ and need to drink lots of water but there are other reasons for coming to water.
“Recently I have taken an interest in imaging insects and so when my wife spotted a wasp drinking from our bird bath this week (22-24th January 2016), she quickly alerted me. I had little hopes of getting my camera in time but was surprised when it came back again (above).
“It then occurred to me that perhaps I was asking the wrong question. The wasp was not ‘dinking’ as much as collecting water for a purpose. We continued our observation and spotted the wasp going to a pile of over-turned soil in the garden, mainly consisting of mud. We then realised it was using the water to help extract mud to build its nest (above). We were subsequently able to watch many episodes over 2-3 days and obtain some images and videos.
“I am uncertain of the full identity of this wasp but it belongs to the ‘Thread-Waisted Wasp’ group and is called a ‘Mud Dauber’ (sometimes called ‘Mud Wasp’) from either the family Sphecidae or Crabronidae that build their nests from mud (possibly Sphex species). It is reported that females build the nest. I was able to watch the mud collection process up close, as close a wasp will let you (0.5 meter).
“The wasp uses its mandibles to scoop up mud and the front set of legs are used to hold, shape and carry the mud. The water collected appears to be used to loosen the mud, enable it to be moulded onto a ball as well as coat it; the mud ball is often glistening with water (above). The ball of mud collected can often be as big as the thorax of the wasp. One magnificent sight is seeing this wasp takes off with a mud ball in its grasp. Despite many tries I was not able to get a still image of this.
“The edited video of some events (above) shows the activity.”
“The nest is located on the retaining wall of our home and hidden in the Creeping Fig (Ficus pumila) and Money Plant (Epipremnum aureum) that cover that part of our garden (above, below).
“It is sad that many view wasps as a ‘threat’ and kill them. The Mud Daubers are generally not aggressive and rarely sting. Watching them build a nest can be a fascinating and absorbing activity for anyone, especially children.”
Dato’ Dr Amar-Singh HSS
Ipoh, Perak, Malaysia
24th January 2016
1. Wikipedia on Mud dauber HERE.
2. Jen Tenenbaum. Why Do Wasps Hover Over Water? HERE.
3. David Richman. Why do Wasp drink water from my pool and what do they need it for? HERE.