View Full Version : The First Sure Sign Of Autumn...Mud Daubers

2014-Sep-18, 06:48 PM
I saw the first mud dauber of the season yesterday.

So this means all the spiders are now shivering in dread in their silken beds whenever the sun comes up.

The mud daubers around here use a trick for catching orb weavers that is just fascinating. And I wonder if this is a local development or if this is a more generalized tactic.

Some mud daubers here will fly up to a web, use the feet on those long hind legs of theirs to seize the non-sticky radial spokes and then vibrate their wings furiously. When the spider comes racing out to the center of the web the mud dauber releases the web and plucks the spider out neat as you please.

I watched a pair of them clear out the spider population along ten feet of eaves that was just chaotic with webs. I was watching from the other side of a patio screen so I could get close without worrying about stowaways of one form or another. The two mud daubers both systematically worked from right to left and cleared all the webs as they went. These two elegant ladies were either a multiple spider larder variety or incredibly fecund. They were on the large size for their kind. The spiders they were taking were all first season brown orb weavers.

And another insect surprise!

I was tending my step-father's yard and nearly stepped on an enormous preying mantis. I wouldn't have noticed her except she went into the arms wide, "Hey! You wanna piece of me!?" mode when I stepped over her. A little over two and a half inches long from stem to stern, when the arms came out it was very noticeable. This is the first and only mantis I've seen here. The local nurseries had been selling the egg cases for about three years now so I guess some finally "took".

I went and got my capture equipment and on my return I had a complete change of heart as I watched it consume one of those big grey striped horse flies. I was not going to take care of it any better than it was going to take care of itself. So I went and put my stuff back and came back to watch. After a minute I saw what it was doing. It was hunting the edge of the shadow cast by the tree over the lawn. It did the "mantis weave" from the juniper edging at the front, across ten feet of lawn all the way to the roses. The mantis ignored me as long as I stayed at least four feet away and as big as it was it was easy to see.

I also saw that the weave dance wasn't to imitate wind blown grass but to imitate the overhead dapple of light in the leaves at the edge of the shadow.

After the horse fly the mantis captured and consumed a cutworm, a lawn skipper, a greenbottle fly, another cutworm and another lawn skipper. All in less than an hour. At first I thought it was just mangling the cutworms then after the second one I saw that the mantis was eating the outer portions and not the gut contents. And cutworms have a lot of gut contents.

Hopefully she's learned to avoid the attention of the scrub jays and she'll be there again when I come back.

2014-Sep-18, 06:59 PM
Hooray, BigDon's back!

Maybe you could have called this thread "Non-Trivial Stuff That Bugs Do".

2014-Sep-18, 08:32 PM
I had on idea mud daubers were seasonal. I see them around all summer.

2014-Sep-19, 09:30 PM
Wasps are interesting, especially the ichneumon wasps.

2014-Sep-19, 11:14 PM
So I've noticed; but we can say good bye to yellow jackets, those mean little devils.

2014-Sep-20, 01:47 AM
I had on idea mud daubers were seasonal. I see them around all summer.
Same in Ohio. Actually, they seem most active in the summer.

Of course Ohio is home to the little known Snow Dauber, which is most active in January. :whistle:

2014-Sep-20, 08:23 PM
Ah, we have a warmth issue here on the SF peninsula.

Mud Daubers are only seasonal on my patch of the earth. :)

This summer was so mild my cyclamen and Christmas cactus were blooming in August instead of late November. Most of the time it barely broke the 70's (F)

But oddly enough going south five miles and you can get a rise in temp of almost 15 degrees. I live in the gap of the first break in the Coast Range that lets temperate ocean air flow into the San Francisco Bay basin. The north flowing California Current usually stays at around 53F.

I do recall that dialogue from "King of the Hill" talking about the weather in Texas.

"Peggy, you're from Wyoming, you used to think 80 degrees was hot!"

I'm the same as Peggy in that regard.

Oops, I have company. I gotta go now.