Sceliphron caementarium

Sceliphron caementarium, also known as the yellow-legged mud-dauber wasp, black-and-yellow mud dauber (within the US), or black-waisted mud-dauber (outside of the US), is a species of sphecid wasp. There are some 30 other species of Sceliphron that occur throughout the world, though in appearance and habits they are quite similar to S. caementarium.[2]

Black and yellow mud dauber
Sceliphron caementarium MHNT Profil.jpg
Scientific classification edit
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Arthropoda
Class: Insecta
Order: Hymenoptera
Family: Sphecidae
Genus: Sceliphron
S. caementarium
Binomial name
Sceliphron caementarium
(Drury, 1773)
  • Pelopoeus caementarium (Drury)
  • Pelopoeus caementarius (Drury)
  • Sphex caementaria Drury
  • Sphex caementarium Drury
  • Sphex caementarius Drury


The Latin species name caementarius means mason or builder of walls.[3]

Distribution and habitatEdit

S. caementarium is widespread in Canada, the United States, Central America, South Africa and the West Indies, and has been introduced to many Pacific Islands (including Australia, Hawaii, and Japan), Peru and Europe,[3][4] where it has become established in some countries of the Mediterranean Basin (Croatia,[5] France[5] and Corsica,[5] Italy,[5] Cyprus,[5] Malta,[6] the Canary Islands,[5] and Madeira)[5] and Austria,[5] and Ukraine.[5]

This species is found in a wide variety of habitats, such as rock ledges, man-made structures, puddles and other water edges, cypress domes, in long leaf pines (Pinus palustris), and in turkey oaks.[1][3]


Female of Sceliphron caementarium feeding on nectar

Sceliphron caementarium can reach a length of 24–28 mm (15161+332 in). Their petiole is generally black and is about half the length of the entire abdomen, however the population in the desert southwest often has a yellow petiole.[7] The thorax shows various yellow markings, while the abdomen is normally black, with yellow propodeum (typical of females). The eyes are black, the antennae are black, and the legs are yellow with black trochanters and femurs. Within the United States, it is the only species with yellow-marked legs. The wings are a tawny color.[3][8]


The black and yellow mud daubers are solitary parasitoid wasps that build nests out of mud. These sphecid wasps collect mud balls at puddle and pool edges for constructing nests. Frequently, nests are built in shaded areas inside formations that are sheltered from the weather or from other environmental elements. These sites may be naturally-occurring, or man-made structures. Some examples are: under and inside various types of bridges, barns, garages, open-air porches, or under housing eaves. The nests comprise up to 25 vertically arranged, individual cylindrical cells. After initial creation and covering of the clutch, this sphecid wasp uses more mud as a means covering and protecting the whole cluster of cells, thereby forming a smooth appearance, and a uniform nest. The entire nest may attain an area equal to, or larger than, the size of an average human fist.

After building a cell of the nest, the female wasp captures several spiders. The captured prey are stung and paralyzed before being placed in the nest (usually 6-15 per cell), and then a single egg is deposited on the prey within each cell. The wasp then seals the cell with a thick mud plug.[3][9] After finishing a series of cells, she leaves and does not return. While consuming the prey and increasing in size, the larva molts several times, until it molts into a pupa. Once the pupa has developed into an adult wasp, the adult emerges from its pupal case and breaks out of its mud chamber.

Adults can be seen in mid-summer feeding on nectar at flowers, especially Queen Anne's lace (Daucus carota), parsnips and water parsnips (Sium suave, Sium latifolium, Berula erecta).[8] They have a low reproductive rate.[10] Stings are rare due to their solitary and usually nonaggressive nature; however, nests are aggressively defended.

A common species of cuckoo wasp, Chrysis angolensis, is frequently a cleptoparasite in Sceliphron nests, and is only one of many different insects that parasitize these mud daubers.[10]


Although they are common components of venoms, serotonin, histamine, acetylcholine,[11][12] and kinins[13] are absent from S. caementarium venom.

Mentions in popular mediaEdit

In 1996, Birgenair Flight 301 crashed near Puerto Rico. The most probable cause of this Boeing 757 crash was a blockage in a Pitot tube (device for air speed measurement) by a mud dauber's nest.[10][14]



  1. ^ a b Hymenoptera Online (HOL)
  2. ^ A. Ćetković, I. Radović & L. Ðorović (2004). "Further evidence of the Asian mud-daubing wasps in Europe (Hymenoptera: Sphecidae)". Entomological Science. 7 (3): 225–229. doi:10.1111/j.1479-8298.2004.00067.x. S2CID 83536317.
  3. ^ a b c d e Bugguide
  4. ^ "Mud dauber wasp". Grzimek's Animal Life Encyclopedia.
  5. ^ a b c d e f g h i "Sceliphron caementarium (Drury, 1770)". Fauna Europaea. 2017-06-16. Retrieved 2021-01-25.
  6. ^ Cassar, Thomas; Mifsud, David (2020-10-30). "The introduction and establishment of Sceliphron caementarium (Drury, 1773) (Hymenoptera, Sphecidae) in Malta (Central Mediterranean)". Journal of Hymenoptera Research. Pensoft Publishers. 79: 163–168. doi:10.3897/jhr.79.58659. ISSN 1314-2607.
  7. ^ Van der Vecht, Jacobus; van Breugel, Frans M.A. (1968). "Revision of the nominate subgenus Sceliphron Latreille (Hymenoptera, Sphecidae) (Studies on the Sceliphronini, Part I)". Tijdschrift voor Entomologie. 111 (6): 185–255. Retrieved 2021-05-25.
  8. ^ a b Nature Search
  9. ^ Milne, Lorus; Milne, Margery (August 2003) [Originally Published October 1st 1980]. Field Guide to Insects & Spiders. New York: Alfred A Knopf, Inc. pp. 844–845. ISBN 0-394-50763-0.
  10. ^ a b c L. Kulzer (1996). "The Black & Yellow Mud Dauber". Scarabogram. 195: 2–3.
  11. ^ O'Connor, Rod; Rosenbrook Jr., Wm. (1963-09-01). "The Venom of the Mud-Dauber Wasps: I. Sceliphron Caementarium: Preliminary Separations and Free Amino Acid Content". Canadian Journal of Biochemistry and Physiology. Canadian Science Publishing. 41 (9): 1943–1948. doi:10.1139/o63-220. ISSN 0576-5544.
  12. ^ Schmidt, J O (1982). "Biochemistry of Insect Venoms". Annual Review of Entomology. Annual Reviews. 27 (1): 339–368. doi:10.1146/annurev.en.27.010182.002011. ISSN 0066-4170. PMID 7044266.
  13. ^ Rosenbrook Jr., William; O'Connor, Rod (1964-07-01). "The Venom of the Mud-Dauber Wasp: Ii. Sceliphron Caementarium: Protein Content". Canadian Journal of Biochemistry. Canadian Science Publishing. 42 (7): 1005–1010. doi:10.1139/o64-111. ISSN 0008-4018. PMID 14218215.
  14. ^ "Wasp's dangerous reputation belies its positive attributes". Florida Weekly. 2014-05-15. Retrieved July 23, 2014.

Further readingEdit

  • Ascher J.S., Pickering J. (2016) Discover Life bee species guide and world checklist (Hymenoptera: Apoidea: Anthophila)
  • Bohart, R.M., and A.S. Menke. 1976. Sphecid Wasps of the World: a Generic Revision. University of California Press.
  • Crawford, R.L. 1987. Spider prey of the mud-dauber, Sceliphron caementarium (Sphecidae), in Washington. Proceedings of the Washington State Entomological Society, 48: 797-800.
  • Evans, H.E., and M.J.West-Eberhard. 1970. The Wasps. University of Michigan Press.
  • Howard, L.O. 1903. The Insect Book. Doubleday.
  • Kevin M. O'Neill. 2000 - Solitary Wasps: Behavior and Natural History (Cornell Series in Arthropod Biology) - Comstock Publishing
  • Rau, Phil. 1916. The sleep of insects. Annals of the Entomological Society of America, 9: 227-275.
  • Roques A., Kenis M., Lees D., Lopez-Vaamonde C., Rabitsch W., Rasplus J.-Y., Roy D. - Alien terrestrial arthropods of Europe - BioRisk 4 Special Issue
  • Ross H. Arnett - American Insects: A Handbook of the Insects of America North of Mexico - CRC Press.
  • Ross, K., and R. Matthews. 1991. The Social Biology of Wasps. Chapter 17, Evolution of Social Behavior in Sphecid Wasps, pp. 570–602.

External linksEdit