Kate's Blog

Wasps in the Wardrobe

There is a thread-waisted or mud-dauber wasp known in Ethiopia as a ‘dog bee’. It has a very narrow waist and, I'm warned, a nasty sting. As far as I can tell from my observations, the dog bee seems to be a sphecid. Sphecids are a family of wasp. The members of this family are solitary. They nest in natural or manmade cavities and construct their nests out of mud. Females hunt for insects, such as spiders, that serve as food for their offspring. The prey is stung and paralyzed and then placed within the nest, which is usually completely provisioned before the eggs are laid. Nests consist of a number of cells, each about 25 cm long, placed side by side.

This photograph shows a nest in our wardrobe that has been revisited many times and extended over a year. We have other smaller nests on walls and ceilings around the house.

wasp's nest
wasp's nest

Sometimes I see the female dog bee coming to visit her nest – indeed, I give her a helping hand by opening the wardrobe door for her! Her offspring complete their larval development in the cells, and I have watched as new dog bees emerge fully-formed from their cells and fly away.

I have to admire the hard work and dedication of the female dog bee. She must make hundreds, if not thousands, of visits to build her nest, carrying minute amounts of earth each time. And she does it all very tidily, with not a dollop of mud on my clean linen! (Although her babies make a sprinkling of fine dirt when they dig their way out their cells.)