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The Carletonian

The Carletonian

The Banksy of Miniature Pottery

Ella Daniels-Koch
A potter wasp’s mud pot spotted just the other day on the edge of the lower Arb.

Who is this rogue potter, seemingly throwing clay on a miniature wheel and sticking the finished product on sumac branches? Look no further than the charming potter wasp, or Eumenes fraternus! 

Anyone who has used clay knows that, in order for it to be worked, it must first be moist. So, the mother wasp begins her project by salivating on some clay. Then, she carries this clay to the site of her nest. She builds on to her pot until it is perfectly round, then lays just one egg, suspending it within the pot with a single thread. As a finishing touch, she places paralyzed spiders, beetle larvae and caterpillars within the pot, before sealing it off. 

Intriguingly, this masterpiece is an intergenerational work of art. After the larva snacks on the delicious paralyzed caterpillars, it will then complete the pot by digging their way out, creating a hole. 

Although she puts much love and care into the little pot her offspring calls home, the potter wasp mother is not aggressive and does not guard her pot, so do not fear a sting! Instead, she likes to pass the time sipping sweet nectar.

If you happen across a little ceramic pot in the arb, make sure to check if it has a hole before poking around. If not, the little larva is likely still in the pot, chewing away on some paralyzed caterpillars, biding its time. Typically, the little wasp emerges as a fully fledged adult in July, the year after its egg was laid.

There are about 3,000 Eumeninae species worldwide, 34 of which are Minnesota natives.


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