What Distinguishes Great Black Wasps from Mud Daubers?

Curious to know how to differentiate between great black wasp vs. mud dauber? Here are the key points to know.

About 30,000 known species of wasps exist in the world, among which most are aggressive and harmful to humans.

The great black wasp and mud dauber belong to the few wasps that aren’t aggressive species. They are both black, but mud daubers have markings along their bodies and differ from the great black wasp in terms of nesting and feeding habits.

Let’s explore the similarities and differences between these two wasps in the blog below.

Great Black Wasp Vs Mud Dauber


What is a Mud Dauber?

Mud daubers are wasps with narrow constrictions between their thorax and abdomen. As the name suggests, these wasps build nests in soil and mud.

Many wasps, such as blue and yellow mud daubers, fall under this category. They bear a 0.5 to 1-inch-long black body with black wings and pale yellow markings or yellow stripes all over their body.

They undergo complete metamorphosis in four stages: egg, pupae, cocoon, and adult. Once the wasps become adults, the new adult female wasp starts building underground nests for laying eggs.

Mud daubers are not social wasps and live mostly in small groups rather than in large colonies. They are not known to cause any harm to humans or sting them, but they can do so if felt threatened.

What is the Great Black Wasp?

Great black wasps are members of the family Sphecidae, which means “thread-waisted wasps.” They, too, have a constriction between their thorax and abdominal region.

They grow up to 1 to 1.5 inches in length and undergo multiple phases of metamorphosis to attain their adult and winged form.

They are dark black with a matte look. Although they might look very demonic, they are quite harmless. They usually don’t sting humans.

The adult females possess a stinger-like mouthpart, mainly used to feed their larvae, while the males don’t have stingers.

They are solitary wasps that do not live in large colonies. Hence they are not aggressive wasps. Even if they bite you, it won’t cause serious harm to your skin except for pain or perhaps redness and swelling for a few days.

Great Black Wasp Vs Mud Dauber: Differences Explained


Differences Between Them

From the description above, the similarities are clear: mud daubers and great black wasps are both black-colored. They have a narrow constriction between their thoracic region and abdomen, making them look similar.

Moreover, both have the same temperament and are non-aggressive, unlike other wasps. They belong to the same family and are very closely related.

Despite all these similarities, the below characteristics can help you to distinguish between the two.


Both are black, yet there is a marked difference. Great Black wasps are jet black that looks matte, but mud daubers have more of a metallic luster.

Moreover, mud daubers have light markings all over their bodies. For example, yellow mud daubers have characteristic yellow-colored stripes.


Mud daubers build their nests on the ground, underneath the eaves of houses, and even on the walls of buildings or other flat surfaces.

Females build their nest by collecting mud inside cylindrical objects, as do orange pipe mud daubers.

Some species of mud daubers, such as blue mud daubers, do not build any nests. They occupy nests abandoned by other family members, such as yellow and black mud daubers.

Female great black wasps, on the other hand, build their nests below the ground. They dig the soil up to a depth of one foot, where they lay their eggs and leave their larvae to grow. Due to this reason, they are also known as digger wasps.

Typically, they hunt a small insect and lay each egg on one insect. They leave the victim paralyzed but alive in their nest for the larvae to feed on once it hatches.

Great Black Wasp Vs Mud Dauber: Differences Explained


What They Eat

Although the two members of the family look alike and are both solitary, they differ in their food habits. Mud daubers enjoy a diet rich in spiders, while great black wasps prefer smaller insects such as crickets, grasshoppers, and katydids.

The method of hunting of both wasps remains the same. Both inject venom into their prey that keeps them paralyzed but alive before feeding. In this way, they preserve their hunt for long periods of time.

Frequently Asked Questions

Are great black wasps aggressive?

No, great black wasps might look very scary with their jet-black color, large popping eyes, and stingers, but they are actually quite calm.

They would not harm you until they feel threatened by you. Only the female has stingers to cause any damage, and she only uses them when you get too close to her nest.

What is the difference between a mud dauber and a dirt dauber?

A mud dauber is also called a dirt dauber. These wasps build nests around muddy areas, on the ground, under eaves, and on walls of buildings.

Some subspecies of mud daubers collect mud into cylindrical objects to make their nests.

Do mud daubers sting or bite you?

No, mud daubers are not aggressive wasps. They live either solitary or in small groups and do not develop defense mechanisms like other wasps use to protect their colonies.

They can sting you if they feel frightened and under attack, but it is rare.

Great Black Wasp Vs Mud Dauber: Differences Explained


How do you tell if a wasp is a mud dauber?

A mud wasp is characterized by its threaded waist and a metallic blue luster with pale markings or stripes on its body. The adults of these species can measure about half to one inch long.

Wrap Up

The great black wasp and mud dauber belong to the same family of wasps and thus have many similar features such as similar color and physique.

Still, they differ in characteristics such as marks on their body, nesting, and feeding habits.

You can easily tell the differences if you look closely at them and observe them well. Thank you for reading.

Reader Emails

These two wasps look so alike that many of our expert readers also get confused. Read some of the emails that we have gotten over the years below, and the heated discussions to identify which wasp it is – mud dauber or giant black

Letter 1 – Great Black Wasps


Subject: Glossy blue-black bug
Location: SW Virginia public garden
August 7, 2017 1:38 pm
Hi, I saw these bugs recently on a very busy patch of hoary mountain mint. They moved too fast to get a good photo of their wings – they are a beautiful blue-black. Can you tell me what they are? thank you!
Signature: curious

Great Black Wasps

Dear curious,
these look to us like Great Black Wasps,
Sphex pensylvanicus.  This BugGuide image nicely illustrates the blue reflections on the wings.

Great Black Wasp

Letter 2 – Great Black Wasp


Subject:  Great Black Wasps
Geographic location of the bug:  Andover Township, NJ
Date: 07/29/2019
Time: 06:11 PM EDT
Your letter to the bugman:  I was out in my pollinator garden this afternoon and noticed a huge Great Black Wasp on the mountain mint.  A very exciting discovery as I rarely see them.  And then, I started noticing that there were maybe a half dozen of them in the garden! I am hopeful that this means a colony is getting established somewhere on our property.  I already have a nice colony of Great Golden Diggers, so have Black Wasps would be a bonus.  A few photos below.
How you want your letter signed:  Deborah E Bifulco

Great Black Wasp

Dear Deborah,
Your Great Black Wasp images are awesome.  That is exciting to learn you may have a stable population of this incredible predator in your vicinity.  Daniel sees Great Golden Digger Wasps every summer on onion flowers and chives flowers, and there is a healthy population of Katydids in the garden as well, but last year was the first time he had a Great Black Wasp sighting on a wild sunflower, but alas, he had no camera handy.

Great Black Wasp


  • Bugman

    Bugman aka Daniel Marlos has been identifying bugs since 1999. whatsthatbug.com is his passion project and it has helped millions of readers identify the bug that has been bugging them for over two decades. You can reach out to him through our Contact Page.

    View all posts
  • Piyushi Dhir

    Piyushi is a nature lover, blogger and traveler at heart. She lives in beautiful Canada with her family. Piyushi is an animal lover and loves to write about all creatures.

    View all posts

Leave a Comment