Potter Wasp

A hot, humid, and quiet day and a potter wasp has secured a looper caterpillar for its “pot” nest chamber. The wasp descended on the caterpillar as it was looping along the path in front of Into The Mist in Catch the Wind. I was lucky to be there when it happened.

Potter wasp has captured small caterpillar.

Potter wasps are solitary wasps, which means they nest alone, not in colonial gatherings as do some burrowing wasps or in collective hives as do yellowjackets, paper wasps, or hornets.

They construct small “pots” in which they stock caterpillars for the larvae that will later hatch from the eggs laid inside the nest chambers.

One complete pot (top) and one being stocked with live caterpillar.

The wasp shown here stung the caterpillar, paralyzing the little larva, then moved it back and forth, from side to side, pinching it with its mandibles for a quarter-hour. It tried several times to take flight but didn’t seem able until finally it was airborne, presumably, on its way back to its “pot.”

Fifteen or so minutes of chewing, stinging, and maneuvering.
The wasp fires up its wings…
And its off.

This wasp looks to be Eumenes fraternus.

You have to be there to see it. So, get out and have a look around!

3 responses to Potter Wasp

  1. Jennifer says:

    Did the wasp need to get the caterpillar into a particular shape to be able to take off? Was it a issue of weight distribution? So incredible to see this – thanks!

    • gregdodge says:

      Wasps typically carry caterpillars head first. The caterpillar must be alive but paralyzed. Those are the only requirements I can think of in transporting the prey. The wasp may have simply been waiting or confirming that its venom had done what it was supposed to do, immobilize the caterpillar.

      • Joann M Panganiban says:

        I just saw this exact thing the other day on my construction site. The Caterpillar looked like it was glowing! The wasp took it into a hole in the 2×6 stud.

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