Paper wasps get their common name from the paper-like material out of which they make their nests. They gather fibers from dead wood and plant stems, which they mix with saliva, and use to construct water-resistant nests made of gray or brown papery material. Due to the shape of these nests, they are also known as umbrella wasps. Paper wasps generally have a similar body shape to yellowjackets, but have a somewhat “slimmer waist.” They are mostly brown with some yellow coloration, but can have different bands of colors and markings that separate them from one another. Some species of paper wasp may even have hints of bolder colors like red, or even brighter colored lines compared to others. While not an aggressive species by nature, paper wasps will sting if they are disturbed or their nest is threatened. It’s unusual for an impregnated paper wasp to sting, but it can happen. Paper wasps like to build nests in covered or secluded areas, such as eaves, patios, etc.
Mud dauber is a common name for a wasp that constructs its nest out of mud. There are many species of wasps referred to as mud daubers, but the black-and-yellow mud daubers are the most common in New Mexico. Besides their unique nests, one of the easiest ways to identify mud daubers is by their thread-like waists separating the abdomen and thorax. Mud daubers are not aggressive and typically do not sting unless their nests are directly threatened. Mud daubers build cylindrical nests, similar in shape to an organ pipe. Nests consist of short mud tubes constructed side by side and are most often located in shaded areas like porch ceilings, under eaves, or in sheds and barns. The female mud dauber collects spiders, paralyzes them with her venom, and then places them inside the mud chambers. She deposits an egg on top of one of the spiders in the chamber before sealing it off. The mud dauber larvae will hatch from the eggs and feed on the prey that was left behind. Some species of mud dauber even feed on dangerous black widow spiders! If the nest has holes, it may indicate that the nest is inactive or old, as the wasps create holes when they leave the nest.
We hope these tips help you identify the two main nest building wasps in our area. There are products that you can get at the store to help you eliminate these pests safely, but we are always here to help you remove nests if you don’t feel comfortable. Please contact us with any questions or concerns. Don’t forget to Follow us on Instagram and Like us on Facebook!