Potter Wasp Facts: All You Need to Know

In this article, we discuss everything that you might want to know about potter wasps, such as their lifecycle, eating habits, habitat, and why they are known as “potter” wasps.

Potter wasps, also known as mason wasps, are a group of wasps that come under the family Vespidae in the order Hymenoptera.

In the past, they have also been classified under another family, Eumeninae.

The following article will discuss more about these potter wasps: what they eat, their lifecycle, their mating rituals, etc. Keep reading!

Potter Wasp
Potter Wasp Nest

What Are Potter Wasps?

Potter wasps get their name from their habit of building a nest that resembles a pot.

It’s about the size of a cherry tomato and has one small opening, just like a vase.

Potter wasps are largely black or brown with yellow, red, orange, or white bands. Their bodies are small, measuring only around ⅜ -¾ inches long.

Much like other vespids, when at rest, the wings of potter wasps remain folded along their length.

They have a prominent abdomen and thorax and a very narrow waist.

Though closely related to paper wasps, potter wasps are solitary wasps that build their own individual nests and do not live in colonies.

Potter Wasp Types

There are a few types of potter wasps that have physical characteristics that differentiate them from each other.

Potter wasps are often confused with paper wasps, Indian hornets, or bald-faced hornets, but they are starkly different from them.

Behavior-wise, all potter wasps are solitary wasps that build mud nests and hunt paralyzed caterpillars for their larvae.

Physical coloring and patterns can be used as a way of differentiating between types of potter wasps.

However, there may be several species in different genera that share the same physical characteristics. Here, we list a few of them.

Eumenes fraternus

This species of potter wasp can be identified by its long abdominal segment.

It’s slender and thin at the head but widens towards the tail end. It’s largely black in color, with a few ivory markings.

This species is common in the eastern US and Canada.

Monobia quadridens

This species, also known as the four-toothed mason wasp, is mostly found in North America. Their bodies are largely entirely black, with just one broad ivory band.

There are two generations of this species: one emerges in the summer and one in the spring.

One distinct fact is that copulation in four-toothed mason wasps lasts for 30 minutes, while it lasts only for one or two minutes in other wasp species.

Euodynerus potter wasps

Wasps that fall under this genus have a similar appearance: black bodies with varied yellow patterns.

Some species have a yellow band on their thorax, while others have yellow dots near this band.

Some species have two yellow bands: a decorative one on the abdomen and a plain yellow one towards the tail end.

Ancistrocerus

Potter wasps that fall under this genus can be differentiated by the variety of patterns on their bodies.

Wasps with five yellow bands on their bodies and a pattern resembling a smiley face could be identified as the Catskill potter wasp, Ancistrocerus albophaleratus.

At the same time, the Lobed Mason wasp may not have the smiley, just two dots and bands.

Stenodynerus

Yet another genus is Stenodynerus. Potter wasps of this kind have a black body but a pattern of six yellow bands.

Cross-Potter wasp

The cross-potter wasps are not as well known but are abundantly seen on both coasts of the US. They have a black body with pale white or yellow patterns.

What Does A Potter Wasp Eat?

Adult potter wasps have a simple diet and usually feed on flower nectar.

However, the developing potter wasp larva is carnivorous and feeds on the prey brought to it by the mother wasp.

Female potter wasps hunt caterpillars, beetle larvae, or spiders by paralyzing them to bring them as food to their larvae.

Potter wasps also lay only one egg per cell that they build.

Hence, they have to undertake multiple trips to get prey for each developing larva.

The larvae then keep feeding on the provisioned prey until it’s time to pupate.

Where do Potter wasps live?

Geographically, potter wasps are mostly found in temperate regions.

In the US and Canada alone, there are around 270 species of potter wasps, and there are close to 3,000 species worldwide.

Habitat-wise, potter wasps can be spotted in urban areas and in woodlands.

The potter wasp larvae live inside the pot nest that the mother wasp builds, while the adults can be spotted foraging around flowers.

Potter wasps build their nests practically anywhere, but they mostly prefer the underside of leaves or on plant stems and twigs.

They also sometimes build their nests in neglected spaces like keyholes, cracks in buildings, etc.

The Life Cycle of a Potter Wasp

Potter wasps tend to have 2-3 generations in a year and very short lifespans.

They mate during the spring, summer, and fall, and male wasps are known to have more than one mate.

Laying Eggs

Once the male and female potter wasps mate, the female goes on to build her nest with soil and regurgitated water. Some species also use chewed plant matter for the nest.

The potter wasp builds her nest in the form of a clay pot with a small opening, usually on the stems of plants or on twigs. That’s where the name “potter” comes from.

A female wasp lays only one egg per cell.

Now some species might build their nest, then go on to hunt for caterpillars and other prey, bring them to the nest, and then lay the egg on top of the prey.

Other species might lay the egg first, then go out and hunt for fresh prey for their young once the egg hatches.

Potter Wasps Mating

Larval Stage

Once the egg hatches and the nest is provisioned with sufficient prey, the female wasp seals the nest so that the larva can feed, pupate, and develop during the winter.

She may go on to make other nests and lay more eggs.

Adulthood

Potter wasp larvae may take a couple of weeks to up to a year to fully develop into adults. Once they have transitioned, they dig their way out of the chamber.

However, the survival of each larva is not guaranteed. Female potter wasps do not defend their nest, and hence it can easily be scraped off surfaces.

How Long Do Potter Wasps Live?

Potter wasps, like other wasp species, do not have a very long lifespan.

Female potter wasps usually survive for two to three months after emergence from their chamber.

During this time, they find a mate, lay their eggs in various pot cells, and provision them.

Do They Bite or Sting?

Potter or mason wasps do not bite or sting unless provoked.

Usually, potter wasps will not bother to disturb humans. But if they are provoked or manhandled, they will deliver a painful sting that might also lead to allergic reactions.

Are they poisonous or venomous?

Yes, potter wasps are venomous. But the use of this poison is directed towards prey that they hunt, such as caterpillars.

They use venom to paralyze the prey so it can be carried to their nest easily.

Venom is never meant to harm humans or pets.

Are they harmful or beneficial to humans?

They aren’t really harmful to humans except that they can deliver a painful sting if manhandled or threatened.

They are beneficial because their main prey is caterpillars.

Hence, they are good pest controllers because they will reduce and control the populations of caterpillars in your garden.

What Are Potter Wasps Attracted To?

Potter wasps are attracted to flowers like goldenrods and late-season thoroughworts because their nectar and pollen serve as a good source of food for the adults.

Additionally, they are also attracted to caterpillars, which are their natural predators.

They might also be attracted to spider and beetle larvae as they hunt these insects for their young ones to feed on.

How Do I Get Rid of Potter Wasps?

Potter wasps are not really harmful or threatening. It’s alright if they’re flying around in your garden.

However, if there are too many of them in your house, you can take the following measures to combat them.

Try to remove wooden furniture from outdoor spaces since bees are attracted to wood.

You can also seal any holes or spaces that might serve as entryways for these wasps to come into your house.

You can also use aerosol pesticide sprays on them to kill them. However, this is a very drastic step and not usually recommended because potter wasps are harmless.

Interesting Facts About Potter Wasps

  • Though potter wasps are mostly black or brown in color with white and yellow bands, there are some species that have shiny wings and dark blue bodies.
  • Potter wasps are named so because they build their nests in the form of a pot or jug.
  • Different species of potter wasps build their nests in different places. Some use plant stems and hollow twigs, while others may use nail holes and screw shafts. Some species also use the abandoned nests of other insects within Hymenoptera.
  • A single female potter wasp can build around 20 different nests in her lifetime.
  • Potter wasps are natural pest controllers. They keep caterpillar populations in check as they hunt the grubs for their developing

Wrap Up

Potter wasps are a very interesting group of insects. They are known to be marvelous architects because of the way they build their nests in the form of a clay pot or jug.

These are solitary wasps and spend their lifetime mating, building a nest, and provisioning their larva with food.

They do not live in colonies but may still have multiple nests at the same time.

Thank you for reading!

Frequently Asked Questions

Why is it called a potter wasp?

Potter wasps have diverse nest-building habits, they either use existing cavities or construct their own underground or exposed nests with one or multiple brood cells.
They use mud or chewed plant material as the building material.
The name “potter wasp” comes from the shape of mud nests built by certain species, on which Native Americans may have based their pottery designs.

Where can you find potter wasps?

Potter wasps are mostly found in temperate regions, with around 270 species in the US and Canada and close to 3,000 worldwide.
They can be found in urban areas and woodlands, and their larvae live inside the pot nest built by the mother wasp.
Potter wasps build their nests on the underside of leaves, plant stems, and twigs, and sometimes in neglected spaces like keyholes and cracks in buildings.
Adult potter wasps can be spotted foraging around flowers.

How big is a potter wasp?

Potter wasps are small wasps with black or brown bodies and colored bands. They grow to be about 3/8 – 3/4 inches long.
Their wings are folded along their bodies when at rest.
They have a prominent abdomen and thorax and a narrow waist. Potter wasps are solitary and build their own nests, unlike paper wasps, which live in colonies.

What attracts potter wasps?

Potter wasps are attracted to flowers like goldenrods and thoroughworts for their nectar and pollen.
They are also attracted to caterpillars, spiders, and beetle larvae, which they hunt for their young to feed on.
These wasps are also attracted to any place where there is loose soil, which they need to build their nests in.

Reader Emails

Potter wasps are both fascinating and a menace. In places where they are in abundance, any patch of loose soil is an invitation for them to make their homes inside it.

Several of our readers have been fascinated by these unique wasps and their small, pot-like nests.

Please go through the letters that we have received over the years from readers who have encountered these wasps in their gardens or yards.

Letter 1 – Potter Wasp

 

Wasp Hello, I was hoping you could tell me what kind of wasp makes these dirt “globes”? I saw the wasp, it flew in with a squirming green caterpillar. They wrestled for a bit among the impatients. The wasp won, then proceeded to stuff it’s prey into the top globe. The wasp was small and black with a bit of yellow; sorry I could not get a better picture of it. But you can see it has closed up the bottome two globes which I’m assuming hold prey for eggs inside to feed on? Thanks, Sarah Hi Sarah, The Potter Wasp, Eumenes fraternus, is black with yellow spots on face, thorax and abdomen and smoky wings. Adults drink nectar and young eat caterpillars. The female builds the squat spherical chanber of mud on a twig or branch, sometimes lining up several as your photograph indicates. The chambers are filled with anesthetized caterpillars. The chambers are rain-proof.

Letter 2 – Potter Wasp

 

A Potter Wasp Potting…
Hello! I know you already have some Potter Wasp pictures, but here are some that I thought you might find interesting. This is a Potter Wasp’s pot just after it was started, as he is working on it, and then completed (just for closure… I know there are already plenty of completed pot photos…). It’s been 4 days and I haven’t seen the wasp bring anything to fill it…
Best Regards,
Matthew



Hi Matthew,
Your photo is a lovely addition to our site. Thanks for sending it.

Letter 3 – Mating Potter Wasps

 

potter wasps mating
I believe these are potter wasps I saw mating tonight. They love our fennel plants (possibly because of the caterpillars on them, although I’ve never seen a wasp bother the caterpillars). The yellow spots on their body don’t show up in this photo unfortunately. It’s the first time I’ve ever seen this.
Tim
www.WildlifeTheater.com



Hi Tim,
Your mating Potter Wasp, Eumenes fraternus, is great. The photo of the baby barn swallows on your website is also wonderful.

Letter 4 – Potter Wasp from Canary Islands: Delta dimiatipenne

 

wasp Hi. Saw this wasp whilst on a field trip to Tenerife with the University. Need to identify it for a write up. Any ideas? Thanks Dylan Davenport Hi Dylan, We are relatively certain this is a Paper Wasp. Eric Eaton has this to add: “The wasp is indeed a vespid of some kind, but definitely not Polistes (the specimen in the image has a stalked (“petiolate”) abdomen, whereas Polistes does not. This being a foreign insect, I can’t identify it any further than family, sorry. Eric”

Letter 5 – Orange Potter Wasp from Australia

 

Sorry about the delay – Orange Potter Wasp from Queensland Hi Guys, sorry about the delay but finally here is a pic of the Orange Potter Wasp, here taking nectar from a paperbark tree. regards, Trevor Jinks Australia Hi Trevor, Thanks for sending us your image of an Orange Potter Wasp, Eumenes latreilli. There are some photos posted to the Geocities site. Update:  February 26, 2013 In retrospect, we now believe this to be a different species of Potter Wasp.  It looks more like Abispa ephippium, which is pictured on the Brisbane Insect website.

Letter 6 – Orange Potter Wasp from Australia is no longer Unknown

 

Australian Spider Wasp?? Hi, I have this ‘wasp’ nest outside one of our bedrooms. These are the best two identification photos I can find (top and side views) (If you need higher res photos I can provide). The best id I can come up with is Australian Spider wasp, but not everything matches (that I can see, but I dont really know anything) and some pictures of the spider wasp look more yellow than this one (more orange). http://www.padil.gov.au/viewPest.aspx?id=792 This record also does not list South Australia, where we are located… Can you identify? How should this nest be dealt with? Thanks for any info on what exactly this is, and what we can do about it. Adam Hi Adam, We agree that your wasp does not match the specimen in the link you provided. Many wasps feed on spiders You probably don’t need to do anything about the nest as very few wasps are aggressive. We don’t have the time now to properly identify this lovely wasp, but we hope Grev, a frequent contributor to our site from Australia might have an idea. Dear Bugman, Could Adam’s wasp be a Potter Wasp? See http://www.geocities.com/brisbane_wasps/PotterWasp2.htm Kind regards, Grev Hi Grev, We knew you would come through with this answer. Orange Potter Wasp, Eumenes latreilli, is a “spot on” identification. Thanks for your valuable input. Update: (11/27/2007) ID of that unknown Australian Wasp Hi guys, I think that wasp from Adam is most likely an Orange Potter Wasp, one of the mud wasp family. Check this link http://www.brisbaneinsects.com/brisbane_wasps/PotterWasp2.htm I got a pic of one of these guys last weekend landing on a puddle of water and drinking but I haven’t processed it yet. The pics on that link are pretty clear though. Keep up the good work guys. Trevor Jinks Australia Hi Trevor, Thanks so much for the information. We would love to post your detailed photo if you have an opportunity to send it our way. Update:  February 26, 2013 In retrospect, we now believe this is a different species of Potter Wasp.  It looks more like Abispa ephippium, which is pictured on the Brisbane Insect Website.  

Letter 7 – Potter Wasp Pots

 

Strange Jars Hi, My name is Thomas, I am in the 7th grade. I found these outside attached to a laundry line. I was wondering if you know what insect made these strange jars? Thank you very much. Thomas Salinas Bakersfield, California. Hi Thomas, These are Potter Wasp Pots. Potter Wasps, Eumenes species, construct these pots from mud and provision them with paralyzed caterpillars. Each pot then contains a single wasp egg and the growing wasp larva will feed on the caterpillars. Thanks for sending your great photo.

Letter 8 – Update: Giant Australian Potter Wasps??? Potter Wasps: Same or different species????

 

Murder or Mating? Can you guys help? Hi Guys, Hope all is well over there. Here in Queensland we are having severe weather with lots of flooding and as a by product my driveway has become a mud puddle, which today attracted the wasp in wasp1.jpg. This wasp is about 1.5 inches long. It has no sooner settled to gather water or mud when an orange potter landed on it and tried to fly off with it (wasp2, wasp 3). Are the two the same species, despite the marking variations, engaged in courtship or is wasp1 a different species and is under attack? Wasp4 shows the potter after the other one escaped marriage/murder. Hope you can help. Trevor Jinks Queensland, Australia 16th February 2008 Hi Trevor, What an amazing photo documentation you have taken. We are going to take a guess at this answer. We believe both of your wasps are Potter Wasps, but we are not sure if they are the same species, two subspecies, or two different species that may hybridize. Except for the striped abdomens, they look very similar. The fact that the unknown color variation was gathering mud is good evidence she is a female wasp building a nest. This could also be territorial behavior for the mud puddle turf since the wasp that remained is also gathering mud, and is probably also a female. We located a website with 8 different species and subspecies of the genus Eumenes, but sadly, there are no photos. Update: (02/16/2008) Potter wasp: Same or different species Dear Daniel, The two wasps are different. The striped looks like a Mud-dauber (Sceliphron laetum). http://www.geocities.com/brisbane_wasps/MudDauber.htm Interestingly, as I type, one of these insects keeps flying between me and the computer on her way to nest she is building behind a poster on the wall. The attacking one looks like the Orange Potter http://www.geocities.com/brisbane_wasps/PotterWasp2.htm http://agspsrv34.agric.wa.gov.au/ento/pestweb/Images/potterwasp1.jpg For a good site showing the difference between the two see: http://hvbackyard.blogspot.com/2007/02/7-entombed-and-eaten-alive.html We have both types of wasp visiting our pond. I often see the Mud- dauber at the edge of the pond collecting mud. The Potter tends to land on the surface of the pond to fetch water. Amazing that one is attacking the other! As an aside: apparently, fossilised mud nests of potter wasps have enabled scientists to date rock paintings in the Kimberley region of Western Australia as being at least 17,000 years old. Best wishes, Grev Hi Grev, We always appreciate your input. The first link that you provided did not lead to the Mud Dauber you indicated, but instead to the Yellow Potter Wasp, Delta campaniforme. Continued searching has provided another possibility: The Large Potter Wasp, Abispa ephippium. The Geocities site includes several images of this species, and it seems to exhibit some variability in the abdominal striping. It seems it is also known as the Australian Hornet. We also found a reference to three species of Giant Australian Mason Wasps in the genus Adispa, including Adispa australiana and Adispa splendida. At this point, we are even more confused, but are favoring either one or more species in the genus Adispa. Update: (02/19/2008) Daniel: Re: the Australian potter wasps, I strongly suspect they are male and female of the same species, in the subfamily Eumeninae of the family Vespidae. With all due respect to “Grev,” they are definitely not mud daubers (genus Sceliphron, family Sphecidae). Not even close. Eric

Letter 9 – Potter Wasp: Eumenes fraternus

 

“I” think its a was[ December 28, 2009 “I” think its a was[ I apologize that this is the only photo that came out clearly. there was a better position, but it was too fuzzy for any detail. This one is feeding on a wild garlic head of flowers that is blooming here on a very cool day in north Florida. I’m sure you can just spit out the name – which will be fine with me. thank you. rd rd Columbia Co., Florida near Lake City
Potter Wasp
Potter Wasp
Dear rd, This is a species of Potter Wasp, Zethus spinipes.  According to BugGuide it is “Black, thorax has yellow marks. Narrow yellow band on abdominal segment 3. Wings brown to violet. Bizarre stalked abdomen typical of genus. Thank you kindly for the information – I’ll note it in my book.  It didn’t quite freeze here last night – so much for the wearther folks (but not complaining except I had to get everything under their blankets).  The flower still blooms but the wasp is no longer resting there.  enjoy.  rd Ed. Note:  September 22, 2012 We just received a correction on the species identification of this Potter Wasp.  We now believe it is Eumenes fraternus.

Letter 10 – Potter Wasp

 

Blue Winged Wasp Location:  Wake Forest, North Carolina July 24, 2010 9:42 am Hi Other than the obvious ”Blue Winged Wasp” I am not sure of anymore specific information on this one. erica stjohn
Potter Wasp
Hi Erica, Potter Wasps in the genus Eumenes, like the individual in your photograph, get their name from the tiny nest constructed by the female which looks like a miniature ceramic pot. Species Correction courtesy of Eric Eaton August 11, 2010 Hi, Daniel: Went through the site and found only a few minor corrections/clarifications, most recent to oldest: … … Potter Wasp, Wake Forest, North Carolina:  actually Zethus spinipes, not a true potter wasp. … … Otherwise, either very good or “I can’t help with that:-)” Is the book out for everybody yet?  If so, I’ll link it to my blog, share on Facebook, etc.  I did get the pre-order e-mail from you. Eric Thanks Eric, We can now link to the BugGuide page for the species Zethus spinipesThe book will be available in October 2010.

Letter 11 – Potter Wasp makes a Pot

 

Potter Wasp
Potter Wasp beginning a new nest
Potter Wasp Location:  Lakeland, FL September 19, 2010 9:43 am Not sure of the exact type of potter wasp. Yesterday, I watched her construct her nest and I guess lay the eggs inside. I am wondering how long before the new wasps will hatch? I use your site often for bug ID’s so I thought I would send you a couple of shots of this. Signature:  Wendy Hicks
Potter Wasp Potting
Hi Wendy, We love your excellent photo documentation of a Potter Wasp at work constructing her nest.  We believe this may be Eumenes fraternus, one of the most common and wide ranging members of the genus.  According to BugGuide:  “There are at least two generations in a year, from late spring to early fall. Overwintering takes place at the prepupal instar, in the mud pots built by last generation mother females. Emerging adults will be the first generation of next year. Based on that, we suspect the adult will emerge in Spring, but since you are in Florida, you may not have to wait that long. Thanks so much for the quick response!  Bug photography is a hobby of mine so I may send more photos thatI find interesting your way. Thanks again!

Letter 12 – Potter Wasp on Cilantro Blossom

 

Ancistrocerus? Location: Hawthorne, California December 10, 2010 12:25 am A new wasp in the back yard yesterday. It’s small, the flower it was feeding on is cilantro. Can you help? Signature: Thanks, Anna
Potter Wasp
Dear Anna, The genus Ancistrocerus is part of the Potter Wasp subfamily Eumeninae, and we are in total agreement with you up until that point.  Your specimen does look very much like Ancistrocerus tuberculocephalus which is represented on BugGuide with submissions from Los Angeles, but it also resembles the images of a member of the genus Dolichodynerus  from San Diego that are posted on BugGuide.  Alas, we haven’t the necessary skill to confirm the genus or species for certain, but we are quite confident that you have a Potter Wasp in the subfamily Eumeninae.  You can read more about the fascinating Potter Wasps on BugGuide.  Thanks so much for sending us the images.  We are pleased to see that your garden is attracting other beneficial pollinating insects and we hope you continue to send us documentation of the Syrphid Flies and other new species you encounter.  Allowing plants like cilantro and parsley to flower is a positive contribution to the balanced ecosystem that exists in a pesticide free and natural (and often unruly) garden because those are the plants that attract beneficial insects.  We have decided to feature your letter and photos because we hope that more gardeners will approach the endeavor with a more holistic approach and shun the carefully manicured gardens that might look pretty and perfect, but are actually sterile environments for native creatures.
Potter Wasp
Hi Daniel, Thanks very much for the words of praise.  Last year we decided to let the lawn die in back, and this spring/summer we had all of the sod removed and replaced it with gravel paths and planting beds for native species (mostly grown from seed).  It’s surpassed my wildest hopes.  We’ve had so many wonderful “new” birds and insects visiting our little patch of heaven.  I did retain the vegetable patch, because I just can’t do without my tomatoes & peppers.  You have been a great help to me in identifying these wonderful creatures not only visit, but now seem comfortable enough to take up residence with us.  Please don’t give me too much credit, as most of what happens is a result of plain old procrastination! I don’t know if you are aware, but I first ran across you as a result of a photo of a Mallophora fautrix photo I submitted.  I attempted to identify it as Bombylans and apparently it caught your eye . . . Thanks very much again for all of your help and the time you spend answering my requests. Anna Hi Anna, Thanks for the reminder on that wonderful Robber Fly image.  We remembered the numerous Syrphids you have submitted.

Letter 13 – Potter Wasp

 

unicorn wasp Location: Jamestown, RI August 24, 2011 5:01 pm Rescued this little guy from a bowl of water then decided to take a walk up my arm. Signature: PeeGee
Potter Wasp
Hi again PeeGee, This looks to us like one of the Potter Wasps or Mason Wasps in the subfamily Eumeninae, and you can find many of the similar looking genera on BugGuide.  We believe the antennae stuck together because of the water, giving your individual the appearance of only one horn.  For your valiant rescue, we are tagging you as a Bug Humanitarian.

Letter 14 – Potter Wasp

 

Help in IDing this wasp, please. Location: Mason County, Ludington, MI September 17, 2011 9:33 pm Took the attached photo today at Ludington State Park in Ludington, MI. Would appreciate help in ID. Signature: John
Potter Wasp
Hi John, This is one of the Potter Wasps in the subfamily Eumeninae, and we believe we have correctly identified it as Eumenes fraternus based on images posted to BugGuide.  Potter Wasps are solitary wasps that build small mud nests provisioned with caterpillars that look like miniature ceramic urns or vases.   

Letter 15 – Potter Wasp

 

Some type of paper wasp? Location: Hawthorne, CA October 1, 2011 1:58 pm Here’s another wasp that’s new to my yard. Is it another type of paper wasp? Signature: Thanks, Anna Carreon
Potter Wasp
Hi again Anna, Like the photo you submitted this past June, and the images you submitted in December, we believe this is another Mason Wasp or Potter Wasp in the subfamily Eumeninae.  The angle of view for the photos and the variation in markings may be confusing you.

Letter 16 – Probably Potter Wasp from India

 

another scary bug in my cottage in India Location: Andhra Pradesh, India December 11, 2011 10:19 am Hi – thanks for identifying the Assassin Bug for me last month, and now I’ve found another, even more bizarre thing in my house. Any ideas, please? Signature: Steve Sargent
Potter Wasp, we believe
Dear Steve, WE are relatively certain, based on the body shape, which is described on BugGuide as:  “First two abdominal segments forming a tapered petiole linking abdomen and thorax.”   Potter Wasps are in the subfamily Eumeninae and your individual might be in the genus Eumenes.  We found a match for body shape on the Krishna Mohan Photography website, and then we found what really resembles your species on the India Nature Watch website.  Potter Wasps often build nests that resemble small ceramic pots.
Potter Wasp, we believe
Dear Daniel, Many thanks for identifying my Potter Wasp – and so quickly!  The photos which you pointed me to are amazing, and the information is very interesting indeed. All the best, Steve

Letter 17 – Potter Wasp from Portugal

 

Thread-waisted Wasp in Portugal Location: Portugal (37º31’55.23”N 8º26’33.53”W) November 18, 2011 1:28 pm Hi, Please can you help me identify the attached picture of a Thread-waisted Wasp. The picture was taken on 10th September in southern Portugal while it was building its brood chamber which you can see in the picture. The brood chamber was made on a south-facing stone wall 150 mts above sea level and at the end of a few days the wasp sealed the opening. Thanks and regards, Frank Signature: Frank
Potter Wasp constructs nest
Hi Frank, This is actually a Potter Wasp in the subfamily Eumeninae.  They construct a mud nest that is provisioned with food for the developing larva.  Moth Caterpillars are a common larval food.  This posting is postdated to go live in early January. Dear Daniel, Thanks a ton. Ciao, Frank PS You can see what others have said about us by visiting this page on Tripadvisor. www.paradiseinportugal.com www.birdinginportugal.com Paradise in Portugal Quinta do Barranco da Estrada 7665 – 880 Santa Clara a Velha Portugal

Letter 18 – Potter Wasp from Switzerland

 

Subject: bugs Location: Rheinau, Switzerland. September 18, 2012 11:47 am This 4cm wasp-like insect was found on a gravestone making a nest. Could you tell me what it is please? Signature: JPB
Potter Wasp
Dear JPB, Because of the shape of the wasp’s body as well as the nest, our best guess is that this is a Potter Wasp or Mason Wasp in the subfamily Eumeninae.  Switzerland does not have many insect identification websites, but you can compare your individual to the North American members of the genus Eumenes represented on BugGuide.

Letter 19 – Wasp from Australia might be Potter Wasp

 

Subject: aussietrev Boring Little Wasp Location: Nth Burnett. Queensland Australia December 17, 2012 9:49 pm Hi Guys, Nearly Christmas, all the best to you and yours and all the visitors to WTB. This little wasp is about 10mm long. The dark dot to the right of its head is a burrow it has dug into an Ironbark tree. The hole is about 1 to 1.5mm diameter. I think it is probably something in the potter wasp family having markings quite similar to this one. http://www.brisbaneinsects.com/brisbane_vespoidwasps/BlackPotterWasp2.htm What do you think? Have a good holiday season all and lets hope for a better year next year. Signature: aussietrev
Probably Potter Wasp
Hi Trevor, Your wasp does look quite similar to the Paralastor sp. which is pictured on the Brisbane Insect website.  We are content with that identification.  Thanks for the holiday cheer.

Letter 20 – Yellow Potter Wasp from Australia

 

Subject: Yellow Potter Wasp – Delta campaniforme Location: Nth Burnett. Queensland Australia January 12, 2013 7:23 pm Hi guys, Thought you may like this shot of the Yellow Potter wasp building a cell. When they have provisioned it the ”jug” neck is reused to seal over the opening. Peter has a heap of information on them at http://www.brisbaneinsects.com/brisbane_vespoidwasps/MudDauber.htm Signature: Aussietrev
Potter Wasp building Pot
Hi Trevor, Your photos are always such marvelous additions to our website and this female Potter Wasp constructing her nursery chamber is no exception.

Letter 21 – Orange Potter Wasp from Australia

 

Subject: Wasp? Location: Melbourne February 25, 2013 12:12 am Hi there, was in the St.kilda Botannical Gardens in Melbourne, wondering what it is? Thanks! Signature: Peter Collins
Orange Potter Wasp
Orange Potter Wasp
Hi Peter, Curiously, though you requested an identification, your files were named “potter” and this is a Potter Wasp, most likely the Orange Potter Wasp, Eumenes latreilli, which we confirmed on the Brisbane Insect Website where it states:  “Potter wasps prey on caterpillars which they paralyze and place inside cells in their nests.”

Letter 22 – Potter or Mason Wasp

 

Subject: New Wasp to the Back Location: Hawthorne, CA September 3, 2013 4:32 pm Hi Daniel, I caught this wasp foraging about in the Mexican Sunflower blooms yesterday and don’t recognize it. I thought I’d seen and identified them all. Can you please help? Signature: Thanks, Anna Carreon
Possibly Mason Wasp
Possibly Mason Wasp
Hi Anna, We believe your wasp is in the subfamily Eumeninae, the Potter and Mason Wasps.  There are many genera on BugGuide that look similar, including Ancistrocerus, Euodynerus and Pachodynerus, but we cannot say with any certainty that your wasp is a member of any of them.  We will try to get additional information for you.  Our archives are populated with quite a few Potter or Mason Wasps from your garden. Hi Daniel, I think it is most likely Euodynerus.  Thanks, and I’ll keep trying to narrow it down. Anna Eric Eaton Responds Hi, Daniel: I agree….This is Euodynerus hidalgo in all likelihood.  I’m absolutely positive at genus level anyway. Eric Eric and Daniel, Thanks for the work on this.  It didn’t seem as brightly colored as Euodynerus hidalgo.  Can we be sure it is not Euodynerus pratensis?  I would appreciate further input and thank you again for your time.  Gads, I’m questioning experts!  Just trying to learn more and more . . . Anna Hi Anna, We cannot say for certain and Eric’s response was not definitive.  Euodynerus hidalgo, according to BugGuide has: “Thin, lamellate, reflexed hind margins of 2nd and 3rd urotergites is diagnostic for this species.  The amount of black is highly variable in this species and other vespids. The eastern subspecies (boreoorientalis) is mainly black. Some specimens of this species from one locality in Florida have practically no red while others are almost completely red. In general, structural characters are more reliable and play a more important role in identification, though some species also show significant structural variation.”  We are not even certain what the first sentence in that quote means. Update from Anna:  September 6, 2013 Hi Daniel, I got a better shot of the same(?) wasp today and do agree with Eric’s determination that this is most likely Euodynerus hidalgo.  Thanks for everything! Anna
Potter Wasp
Potter Wasp
Thanks for the update and the new photo Anna.

Letter 23 – Potter Wasp Pots

 

Subject: Found on ficus Location: Southern NY February 10, 2014 7:08 pm Hi Bugman, We had a ficus plant on our porch this summer. We brought it in last September when the weather started getting colder. I noticed what I thought was a cocoon, but my friend said it was an egg sac. It looks like something hatched out of one side. What kind of bug would make this? Thank You Bugman, Signature: Perplexed in NY
Potter Wasp Pots
Potter Wasp Pots
Dear Perplexed in NY, These are nests of a Potter Wasp.  According to BugGuide:  “Females lay egg in mud nest (built on twig, etc.), then provision with small caterpillars esp. cankerworms. Also reported to provision with sawflies.”  BugGuide also indicates:  “There are at least two generations in a year, from late spring to early fall. Overwintering takes place at the prepupal instar, in the mud pots built by last generation mother females. Emerging adults will be the first generation of next year.”

Letter 24 – Potter Wasp from Western Australia: Abispa ephippium

 

Subject: what’s that wasp? Location: Oldbury, Western Australia December 5, 2014 1:53 am Hi again, I took this pic of a wasp the other day on my property near Perth Western Australia and have been unable to make a positive identification. The T shaped marking on it’s thorax and the black and orange head markings are what have me perplexed. If you have time maybe you can help me. I do like to establish a positive ID on my photographic subjects. Thanks, Best regards, Signature: Jill
Mason Wasp, we believe
Potter Wasp
Dear Jill, Your impressive wasp resembles a Potter Wasp or Mason Wasp in the subfamily Eumeninae, and it does bear a similarity to a species pictured on the Brisbane Insect Site that is identified as a Mason Wasp, Abispa ephippium.  We believe your wasp may be a close relative as the markings are similar, but distinctly different.
Possibly Mason Wasp
Potter Wasp
Hi Daniel, Thanks for you help once again. When I first saw the wasp my immediate assumption was that it was a Potter Wasp or Mason Wasp. It was just those markings that had me confused, when I tried to confirm my assumption, as I couldn’t find any wasp, pictured or described, on the net with the same markings. However I have since read there are many different species of Eumeninae, although the thorax marking of the Mason Wasp normally seems to be described and pictured with a distinct triangular black marking.  I think I will have to put it down to being a Mason Wasp as you suggest.  If I ever find do happen to find out it is something else, I will let you know. Btw… Do you know the number of Bugs Anonymous?…. I think I have a problem.  I dreamt about this wasp last night. lol.  I was dreaming I was back at the spot where I photographed it, trying to get a better picture of it’s abdomen! True! : )) Until next time… happy bug watching! Best regards, Jill Update Hi again Daniel, Today I sent the query of the T marked wasp to the Perth, Western Australia, Museum Entomology Dept and they say it is a Potter Wasp Potter Wasp (Abispa ephippium) So we can all sleep easy tonight. ; ) Thanks again for your help. Best regards, Jill Hi Jill, Thanks for confirming that the wasp you captured in images is a well documented species that usually has an entirely black thorax.

Letter 25 – Bottlebrush Sawfly from Australia

 

Subject: Wasp? Location: Wantirna, Victoria February 6, 2015 8:03 pm Hello, I found this wasp in my melbourne backyard yesterday. It’s very bright and colorful, orange looks fluro bright and wings have a purple tinge to them. I looked up a few wasps on your site, some of the potters wasps look similar but none have the same markings. Do you know what it is? Signature: Catherine
Probably Mason Wasp
Bottlebrush Sawfly
Dear Catherine, We agree that your individual resembles the Potter and Mason Wasps in the subfamily Eumeninae, and though it resembles several individuals posted on the Brisbane Insect website, it is not an exact match for any of them.  We will continue to research this identification.  The antennae on your individual, which appear to arise from a light colored stalk, are quite distinctive.
Probably Mason Wasp
Probably Mason Wasp
Hi Daniel, My father found a pic online which looks similar. It’s called a wasp-mimic bee http://bie.ala.org.au/species/Hyleoides+concinna#tab_gallery However there isn’t must information about them online. Very interesting for suburban Melbourne! Correction:  April 14, 2015 Thanks to a comment we just received, we realized that this is a Bottlebrush Sawfly, Pterygophorus cinctus, a species already represented on our site.

Letter 26 – Bug of the Month August 2015: Three Wasps from Minnesota: Potter Wasp, Paper Wasp and Cicada Killer

 

Subject: Identify Wasps Location: South Central MN July 30, 2015 7:54 am Since 2013 I’ve been caring for a large rain garden on Faribault County, MN. The pollinators have been late to return, but now I have several of them and of large size, too. I took some photos yesterday and include three below, which to my untrained eye look like wasps. They have never gone after me, even when I’ve been working in the garden, preferring instead to to move from blossom to blossom. Image 1 is pictured on the leaf of an achemilla plant. I rarely see this wasp, so for me this was a lucky shot. Image 2 was a surprise close-up. It looks very much like Image 3 along the abdomen but the head is different in color and markings. To my eye the antennae also differ. Image 8196 is the most common in my garden. These vary in size from small to as big as my pinky. Right now they are in the large range, approaching thumb size. They are are hefty in weight; blossoms droop when they land on them. They seem to favor milkweed and ratibida (yellow coneflower). There are a couple others I see now and again, such as the the Great Black and a red version of same with black tip on base of abdomen. Then there’s one with long legs that trail in flight, though I’ve not been able to capture a photo. Again, I feel safe enough in my garden; I do my weeding thing and they do their thing on the blossoms. I wear a hat and long sleeves with gloves, which I think helps. Can you identify them? Are they native or exotic? Thank you. Signature: Wanda J. Kothlow
Unknown Wasp
Potter Wasp
Goodness Wanda, There are at least ten times more words in your request than in most of the phrases we generally receive.  We miss the chatty identification requests from days gone by before everyone was able to connect to the internet with cellular telephones and people began to forget how to write.  Your first Wasp is not something we immediately recognize, though we suspect it is a Potter or Mason Wasp.  It looks very similar to this Ancistrocerus adiabatus posted to BugGuide.
Paper Wasp
Paper Wasp
Your second Wasp is a Paper Wasp in the genus Polistes, and a quick glance at BugGuide has us believing it is the Northern Paper Wasp,  Polistes fuscatus.  According to BugGuide:  “Adult P. fuscatus feed mainly on plant nectar. The species is considered insectivorous because it kills caterpillars and other small insects in order to provide food for developing larvae. Foragers collect various prey insects to feed to the larvae. The wasp then malaxates, or softens the food and in doing so absorbs most of the liquid in the food. This solid portion is given to older larvae and the liquid is regurgitated to be fed to younger larvae. (Turillazzi and West-Eberhard, 1996)”
Cicada Killer
Cicada Killer
Your hefty behemoth is a magnificent Cicada Killer, and your indication that there is a significant population of them indicates a ready food supply for the larvae.  Female Cicada Killers sting and paralyze Cicadas to provision an underground nest.  There is one generation per year and where they are found, Cicada Killers make seasonal appearances.  None of your wasps are considered aggressive.  Thanks again for your entertaining submission.  Your rain garden sounds like it has a very healthy ecosystem.

Letter 27 – Potter Wasp

 

Subject: Mystery wasp Location: Troy, VA September 5, 2016 1:01 pm I spotted this lovely wasp (I’m assuming it’s a wasp, but maybe it’s not) on goldenrod flowers by the side of a pond. It has a slight bluish sheen that doesn’t really show in the photos. I have done some searching but can’t really figure out what this is. Any help would be appreciated. thanks again Signature: Grace Pedalino
Potter Wasp
Potter Wasp
Dear Grace, We identified your Potter Wasp as Zethus spinipes thanks to this BugGuide image.  According to BugGuide:  “Black, thorax has yellow marks. Narrow yellow band on abdominal segment 3. Wings brown to violet. Bizarre stalked abdomen typical of genus.”  We are very excited to have a posting to add to our new tag:  Goldenrod Meadow.
Potter Wasp
Potter Wasp

Letter 28 – Potter Wasp

 

Subject:  Wasp Geographic location of the bug:  Pittsburgh Date: 08/18/2018 Time: 07:47 PM EDT Your letter to the bugman:  Hello, I believe this is a thread waisted wasp, based on info I found on your site.  It has recently shown up in my garden! I’m sharing this photo and just wondering if that’s what it is. How you want your letter signed:  Urban garden gal
Potter Wasp
Dear Urban garden gal, This is actually a Potter Wasp in the genus Eumenes, and not a Thread-Waisted Wasp as this BugGuide image illustrates.  If you hunt carefully in your garden, paying attention to bare twigs, you might locate the pot-shaped nest of the Potter Wasp.

Letter 29 – Potter Wasp

 

Subject:  Possible Cuckoo Leafcutter bee? Geographic location of the bug:  Galveston, Tx Date: 03/11/2019 Time: 03:45 PM EDT Your letter to the bugman:  Hello, I’m just now learning about native bees and am wondering if this bug that I took a picture of in October of 2018 could be a Slosson’s Sand-dwelling Cuckoo Leafcutter Bee. The insect was hanging out in my garden although I can’t remember the name of the plant I saw it on. Can you help me out and let me know if it is a native bee? Thanks Chris How you want your letter signed:  Chris
Potter Wasp
Dear Chris, This is not a native Bee.  It is a native Potter or Mason Wasp in the subfamily Eumeninae, the Red-marked Pachodynerus, Pachodynerus erynnis, which we identified on BugGuide.  According to BugGuide:  “Adults are nectar feeders and hunt caterpillars as food for larvae” and “Solitary. A parent wasp builds mud cells or uses empty cells of other mud-building wasp species, provisioning the nest with caterpillars. One larva per cell.”

Authors

    by
  • 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.

  • 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.

23 thoughts on “Potter Wasp Facts: All You Need to Know”

  1. I have both of these wasps in my collection, and have had them identified at the South Australian Museum. The striped one is Abispa splendida, which is relatively rare. The overly enthusiastic male on top is the common Abispa ephippium. I remember in Brisbane the male ephippiums used to hang around at the swimming pool all day, waiting to jump on the hard working females when they came to get water. The behaviour in the photograph is the same, except this male is chasing after the wrong species.

    Reply
  2. Dear All ,
    I captured & took very detailed photos of the larger wasp ?the one on the bottom with srtipes in the above photos at Salamander Bay NSW Australia , there where about 14 flying around &the outside of house /it was very pretty but to me it said it would bite & cause pain for my young grandchildren,thats why I captured it alive /my son in law works for National parks & wildlife or department of enviroment ,so I gave it to him /so far they think its a potters wasp ////but what ever it is I can tell you I now know what bit me 19times through my clothes last time I was up there about 3months ago /I was putting children in car when I felt knife stabbing hot burning stinging pain all up & down my leg over & over never felt pain like it / I stripped my thick jeans off thinking it had to have been inside my jeans I now know it was on outside /thankful it got me not the children /swallowed to antihistamine tablets & went straight to hospital I had a job to walk,some tablets & needle helped/ the Dr said it had to be a wasp or something spider for the number of times I was bitten – but for weeks after, the burn was still there couldn’t bare to have clothing touch it / so just what do you know about the venom ?? If you would like photos I am happy to email them /for my grandchildrens saftey would like to know how to get rid of them .Regards many thanks

    Reply
  3. Dear All ,
    I captured & took very detailed photos of the larger wasp ?the one on the bottom with srtipes in the above photos at Salamander Bay NSW Australia , there where about 14 flying around &the outside of house /it was very pretty but to me it said it would bite & cause pain for my young grandchildren,thats why I captured it alive /my son in law works for National parks & wildlife or department of enviroment ,so I gave it to him /so far they think its a potters wasp ////but what ever it is I can tell you I now know what bit me 19times through my clothes last time I was up there about 3months ago /I was putting children in car when I felt knife stabbing hot burning stinging pain all up & down my leg over & over never felt pain like it / I stripped my thick jeans off thinking it had to have been inside my jeans I now know it was on outside /thankful it got me not the children /swallowed to antihistamine tablets & went straight to hospital I had a job to walk,some tablets & needle helped/ the Dr said it had to be a wasp or something spider for the number of times I was bitten – but for weeks after, the burn was still there couldn’t bare to have clothing touch it / so just what do you know about the venom ?? If you would like photos I am happy to email them /for my grandchildrens saftey would like to know how to get rid of them .Regards many thanks

    Reply
  4. Dear Catherine,
    it seems to me that this is a Bottlebrush sawfly – Pterygophorus cinctus. Since sawflies can’t sting, the coloration is probably mimicking a (stinging) wasp, for example Abispa ephippium.

    Reply
  5. Greetings, Daniel et al!
    Thank you so much for your prompt and detailed reply!

    I confess, I can be chatty; I believe in providing details to help with identification. I find the details help the person I’ve asked for assistance to have a more thorough picture of the critter and environment in which said critter was encountered.

    I like to think we have a healthy ecosystem. The garden is over 80% native perennials, weeding is done by hand and I encourage integrated pest management. Absolutely nothing that ends in “-cide” is allowed near my garden. We freshen the mulch every fall, leave the foliage through the winter for structure, and in April begin loosening the winter debris to allow new growth.

    It is because I took over care of this garden that I’ve been photographing the insect life I find in the garden, on the plants, in the soil. Was fascinating watching the parasitic wasps go after the milkweed aphids in 2013! Found lacewing eggs, saw the larvae going after the aphids, and the lady bug larvae finding meals, too!

    The cicadas are beginning their annual concerts now, singing in the heat of the day. I found a few shells yesterday. Summer is here!

    Blessings to all at What’s That Bug,
    Wanda J. Kothlow

    Reply
  6. Squatted one in Epping Victoria last week as it was aggressive. It looked unusual and not like anything I’ve seen before so I decided to take a photo . How do I upload pic as proof?

    Reply
  7. Thanks very much for the ID. I thought the wasp’s markings were quite striking. I’m glad you like the photo. One thing we have lots of is goldenrod. I’ll see what else I can photograph that might be of interest on the goldenrod for your new section.

    Thanks again for an informative website.

    Reply
  8. Thanks very much for the ID. I thought the wasp’s markings were quite striking. I’m glad you like the photo. One thing we have lots of is goldenrod. I’ll see what else I can photograph that might be of interest on the goldenrod for your new section.

    Thanks again for an informative website.

    Reply
  9. I’ve had a very large wasp trying to collect water from my 3 year old son’s pool and so far so long as we don’t fear,attack it or loose site of it it has never bitten any of us even with my nieces when they were in the pool with my son and I’ve had also the opportunity of having this beautiful species of insect as close as one foot away from me without fearing it

    Reply
  10. I’ve seen these wasps around my swimming pool on Friday. We live in Lysterfield Victoria.
    My puppy bit it and then I saw the wasp attack my dog.
    Pup went to vet to get help as her face swell up. Never seen these types of wasps around before.

    Reply
  11. I was doing some yard work in my front yard, by my front door I saw a potter wasp on my stairs. When I took a closer look I saw the dirt chamber and not wanting a wasp nest, I sprayed it with water then knocked it away with a stick. That is when I saw the green worms. They freaked me out a little bit. When I was done with my work I came inside to find out what the wasp and green worms were.

    Reply

Leave a Comment