My big blue truck pulls into my driveway and I step out to check the mailbox. As I tuned to walk back to the truck I noticed the tell tale signs of wildflowers bobbing up and down when the wind is still. I have allowed nature to have it’s way on the banks of the creek in front of my as a form of erosion control and was blessed with a stand of Goldenrod. Goldenrod is a valuable late season resource for pollinators so it makes me happy to see the bright yellow spray of flowers in the fall. Especially when the bees are working on them. I put the mail in the truck and stepped around with my camera to see what kinds of bees and how many were enjoying the pollen and nectar that the flowers provide. There were a few honeybees but mostly I found native bumblebees and wasps. Typically I have a huge number of Paper Wasps. The brown kind that builds umbrella shaped nests on the eaves of my house. But one of wasps was different. It had blue iridescent wings and a black body with white spots. At first I thought it was a European Paper Wasp but when I did the research it turned out to be a Potter Wasp. This was is a native of the Eastern woodlands but it’s not one that I have seen often or if I did I just assumed it was something else. But now that I’m doing a lot of writing about the Appalachian Wildlife I’m more motivated to get the deeper details.
The Potter Wasp like many of the native bees and wasps seems to be solitary and like the name implies buids it’s nest from mud instead of paper. I’m used to seeing the long tunnel like nests of the Pipe Oregon Mud Dauber which are found on the houses and rocky out croppings of my mountain. But the Potter Wasp nest is much different. It’s actually vase shaped with a wide base and a narrow neck that flares out at the opening. The Potter Wasp will then paralyze a caterpillar and place it in the pot with a single egg. But while she feeds her young meat she herself feeds exclusively on pollen and nectar. And something about Goldenrod seems to really attract wasps in general. It’s not uncommon for me to find as many wasps feeding on the Goldenrod as I do true bees.
I am hoping to spot and photograph the unique nests of the Potter Wasp soon. I suspect that they are tucked away safely on some of rocks that surround my property and I’ll do a follow-up post when I see them but for now I just know that they’re in the area somewhere enjoying the late season bloom and pollinating my wildflowers.
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