Tuesday, December 12, 2006


When I was a kid, we called the wasps that make these nests Dirt Daubers. Or rather, Dirt Dobbers. Outside the south they are apparently known as Mud Daubers. (1, 2)

It took me a minute to realize what seemed so strange about finding one of their nests in the woods. I think it's the first time I'd ever seen one that was not attached to something manmade. We normally see them on buildings, under eaves or elsewhere out of reach of the rain.

Apparently, the Daubers aren't aggressive and don't sting often. Plus, they lay eggs on Black Widow spiders that they stuff into those pipes as food for their offspring. So, Daubers = on my good side.

Paper Wasps = on my bad side. The previous "just shoo them out the door" policy is history. The last one that got that treatment repaid me with a sting on the proximal interphalangeal joint of my index finger.

I looked up the medical name so that I could be specific about how painful it was.

According to Dr. Justin O. Schmidt and his insect Pain Index, the sensation is rated at
3.0: Caustic & burning. Like spilling a beaker of Hydrochloric acid on a paper cut.
Schmidt is an stinging-insect expert -- if you run across an article on African giant stink ants, it's likely to have his name on it somewhere.

But his index is limited to bites and stings from insects. Nobody has done the important cross-indexing with spiders, snakes, platypus, jellyfish, and so on. Because you might just think pepsis wasps or bullet ants were bad, until you came across the Australian jellyfish that can cause Irukandji syndrome.


R.Powers said...

Paper wasps nest under cabbage palms here, but otherwise, it does always seem to be manmade structures like my porch.

Paper wasps not only sting worse, they have a really short fuse compared to dirt dobbers.

Wouldn't you like to slap that guy that experimented on his 9 year old kid with the box jelly?

Insert Napolean Dynamite style, "IDIOT!" here.

R.Powers said...

OOPS, I meant to say dirt dobbers nest under palms, but paper wasps do too, so technically ...

Anonymous said...

I don't like wasps. Even if they do nice things..

Rachel said...

We always called them dirt dobbers too! First time I had heard that in a long time!

KFarmer said...

I must say that picture sure was curious. I've never seen them make a nest on a tree... I will have to be on the look-out!

On another note- you are going to have a new semi-neighbor sometime in July. My son is going to move to Montgomery! Hoo Hoo! Would you happen to know anyone who lives in that area (or suburb)for housing ideas? We are all getting so excited!

Cathy said...

I'll be steering very clear of Australian jellyfish ;0) in fact I think I'll just steer clear of Australia. Don't they have more venomous creatures than any other continent?

Rurality said...

FC, yeah I wondered what the guy's wife had to say about that!

H&B, I usually duck from them myself. :)

Rachel, I was pretty old before I realized it was actually "daubers"!

KF, email me privately. I know someone who may be able to help you.

Cathy, yes I've heard that. They put up with a lot!

Anonymous said...

Yes, we called them Mud Daubers. In those idyllic boyhood summers I spent in Kentucky, an old farmer would catch Mud Daubers and play with them. I was fascinated that one could do this.

Deb said...

You have reminded me, all too graphically, why Minnesota living, despite all the cold winters, isn't really all that bad. Sure we have wasps and yellowjackets once in a while, but it's a rare occurrence.

Rurality said...

Pablo, whoa... even though they are supposedly non-agressive... I still don't have the nerve to catch them, much less play with them!

Deb, you made me think about how people tend to downplay their own region's faults and think that those of other regions are far worse. I do the same thing! I suppose it's a question of "the devil you know". Or maybe the devil you're used to. For me the cold would be worse than the bugs are. :)

Anonymous said...

yes, we indeed do have the worlds deadliest animals - deadliest ants, spiders, snakes, crocodiles, sharks, fish, shellfish, birds, ticks, jellyfish, etc. Also some of the deadliest plants, such as ones that use flourine-based poisons, and the Giant Queensland Stinging Tree, which won't kill you but might make you wish it had.

We're quite proud of our wildlife :)

Nature Girl said...

I saw a documentary on those Irukanji....Uh...No thanks! I don't wanna have anything to do with them! YIKES!

Hope your finger is better soon.

Rurality said...

Drhoz, I had a feeling that you were! :)

Stacie, I hope I can see that show someday. Sounds interesting.