Do Wasps Have Any Redeeming Value or Do They Just Suck is one of our all-time most popular blog posts, and in it we mention a variety called the mud dauber. They’re quite common in Florida, so I thought I’d dedicate a whole post to understanding these little beasties.
What are Mud Daubers?
“Mud dauber” is a generic name given to several different species of wasp. The physical appearance of each species can be as varied as the nests they build. Most species are recognizable as thin elongated wasps. Colors may range from black to brown to yellow. (Helpful, right?)
Their most defining characteristic is their habit of building nests made of dirt and saliva (as in mud). Some nests are a collection of mud “tubes” resembling pipes from a pipe organ. (Click here for a picture.) Others build much less elaborate nests that appear as — well, I can only describe it as a blob really, about the size of a pack of chewing gum.
Mud daubers generally include other small insects and spiders in the nest post-construction. These are not dead but paralyzed by the mud dauber’s sting. The “victims” are sealed inside the nest along with the wasp’s eggs, and will provide food for the eggs when they hatch.
Do Mud Daubers Sting?
While mud daubers all have stingers (as you would expect from any self-respecting wasp), they seldom sting people. Stingers are primarily used to subdue prey, although mud dauber wasps will deliver a persuasive reason to step aside if provoked.
Should Florida Homeowners Be Worried About Mud Dauber Wasps?
Mud daubers are solitary creatures that keep mostly to themselves, so the concern doesn’t come from stings. What makes them a nuisance to homeowners (and fatal to aircraft passengers and crew) are the nests they build.
Nests tend to appear on homes near the eaves, in areas sheltered from sun and rain — but really, mud daubers will make their nests just about anywhere, including in attics. Attic nests are trouble for homeowners for two reasons:
The first is that mud daubers can create loud buzzing sounds — enough to drive you crazy!
The second issue arises when the mud daubers find their way into the living space of a home. This usually happens around recessed lighting fixtures in the ceiling. If a mud dauber finds itself trapped inside your home with you (with you maybe trying to bob and weave in avoidance, or chase it with a broom), it will be more inclined to sting in defense.
Either way, they aren’t good house guests.
How To Get Rid of Mud Daubers
If you do happen to find yourself beset by these wasps, you’ll be relieved to know that they’re easy to kill. Most insecticides (including aerosols and wasp sprays) will take them out if you manage to catch the wasps directly. Just be mindful that these products may damage paint and landscaping plants.
Killing mud daubers is not the same as controlling them, which is more difficult for two reasons:
First, like other wasps and some bees, generations return to the original nest site to lay eggs.
Secondly, well, they’re not dummies. Mud dauber wasps will avoid areas treated with common residual sprays, which act as repellants — forcing them into untreated areas of the home, such as the attic. These areas are often tough to treat and a pain to clean up afterward.
The product we recommend to control mud daubers and other wasps around your property is Alpine WSG. It is non-repellant, which means the mud daubers don’t know it’s there. When they land on it, they receive a lethal dose of the poison and will fly away and die. Once you have eliminated a generation of mud daubers, it’s much easier to keep up with individuals that find your home attractive.
The environmental impact of treating mud daubers in this way is that, unlike aerosols, the product is applied directly to the surface the mud dauber will land on, killing only the insects that contact it.
On the other hand, aerosols are likely to kill any insect downwind of the treatment site…which may include insects vital to our ecosystem, like bees and butterflies. Always read and follow the label of any product you chose.
How To Clean Up Mud Dauber Nests
Mud dauber nests can be challenging to clean up because the combination of dirt and the wasps’ saliva is a powerful one — almost like concrete!
If found early enough, water and a stiff brush may be all you need. Left unaddressed for long, a power washer might not even do it. If you find yourself so, some Universal customers have reported good results using a mild acid solution. The worst-case scenario in cleaning up mud dauber nests includes touching up areas with a fresh coat of paint!
The best way to avoid the problems with clean-up is to prevent mud daubers from nesting on or in your home in the first place. Take action when you see the first nest on the outside of your home or notice buzzing coming from your attic. Clean the nest right away and treat your home’s exterior with a non-repellant product labeled for this use.
If this isn’t practical and you live in Volusia or Flagler counties in Florida, please contact Universal Pest Control. We can be found online at BugandTermiteControl.com or by calling 386-673-1557. We are glad to help you.
Todd Stebleton is the owner and operator of Universal Pest Control, a family-owned business for over 25 years in Ormond Beach, Florida. He and his wife Natalie are proud to have built a company focused on conducting business with honesty and integrity: keeping customers first, protecting the environment, and providing trustworthy, personal service.
Universal: Honest, Environmentally Friendly Pest Control