Mason Wasp Uses Cicada Exuviae as a Nesting Site - Observation of the Week, 2/1/22

Our Observation of the Week is this wasp (Subfamily Eumeninae) which made its nest in a cicada exuviae! Seen in Australia by @cinclosoma.

 @cinclosoma is the joint account of Tony and Jenny Dominelli, who hail from different parts of the continent but are currently interested in the Mallee, an area in northwestern Victoria. Jenny “spent her childhood along Australia's east coast visiting many reefs, estuaries, beaches and mangroves from Sydney to Townsville and beyond,” while Tony hails from the Mallee but has also explored “the monsoon forests and vine thickets of Cape York Peninsula…We both have a keen interest in the birdlife of the Mallee, especially blossom nomads and ground dwelling birds.”

And while doing so (and looking for what's likely an undescribed species of Kobonga cicada along the Murray River) they stumbled across the scene you see above - a female wasp who’d constructed her nest inside the exuviae of a cicada. “This made our day,” they told me, “these encounters with the natural world are just priceless!”

Members of the subfamily Eumeninae are often called mason wasps or potter wasps and, as you can see, they generally construct their nests from mud (or sometimes sand or masticated wood). After the nest is constructed, the female wasp lays an egg in it then provisions the nest by finding prey items such as caterpillars or spiders. Prey are paralyzed with a sting, then brought back to the nest. When it hatches, the larva will eat the provisions and metamorphose into an adult. Some, the “potter” wasps, make exposed pot-shaped nests, while others use cavities (or in this case exuviae) as a starting point for construction. 

“These days we have settled down to document, as best we are able through iNaturalist, the flora and fauna of Far North West Victoria,” say Tony and Jenny.

Our participation in iNaturalist has emphasized the immense diversity of nature and how much there is to lose, should we all not care enough, and more importantly, do enough, to allow this wonder to survive and thrive.

We also have a special interest in the accumulating effect of anthropogenic climate change in the Mallee; expressed mainly as declining winter rainfall and accelerating evaporation through ever higher average summer temperatures.

- Desert nomads is a term I wasn’t familiar with, but Tony and Jenny tell me “Down our way it refers to highly nomadic bird species, such as honeyeater or lorikeet, which respond to mass flowering events of species like eucalypt, melaleuca, callistemon or other nectar rich flora. These nomads often range over long distances and broad areas in their quest.”

- The Animal Architecture project has quite a few observations of mason wasp nests, take a look!

- Here’s some excellent footage of a potter wasp building and provisioning her nest. 

- While in a different subfamily, paper wasps also sometimes construct nests in interesting places or from interesting materials.

Posted on February 01, 2022 05:18 PM by tiwane tiwane


that's so cool! I've seen exuvia last a few months but it never occurred to me it could be used as shelter!

Posted by astra_the_dragon over 1 year ago

That is quite the cool shot!

Posted by williamwisephoto over 1 year ago

It is interesting that there appears to be silk fastening the head and the tail tip of the exuviae to the twig.

Posted by beewilliams over 1 year ago

This is so spectacular! Thank you for documenting this! <3
@christineyoung You must see this!

Posted by flowntheloop over 1 year ago

wow, that is amazing!

Posted by origamilevi over 1 year ago

It really is a tremendous observation! Thanks for sharing it with us, @cinclosoma !

Posted by sambiology over 1 year ago

I got to watch an Okinawa Mud Wasp work on her nest a few years ago, it was mesmerizing. Took this video of her as well. They're so cool!

Posted by tiwane over 1 year ago

What a cool find! I wonder if any wasps made use of the many Magicicada exuviae in the States this past Brood X emergence? Also, Kobonga might be my new favorite genus name :)

Posted by weecorbie over 1 year ago

Wow, amazing observation. Kind of fun!

Posted by ajott over 1 year ago

This is so much a fun observation! Thank you!

Posted by susanhewitt over 1 year ago

A very interesting observation. thank you for sharing it!

Posted by mehdh over 1 year ago

Astonishing! Congratulations.

Posted by nelson_wisnik over 1 year ago

What a great find. I am green with envy!

Posted by davidgascoigne over 1 year ago

In nature there is always recycling. Thank you for this fascinating example!

Posted by maryah over 1 year ago


Posted by jack_from_ontario over 1 year ago

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