Overnight tiny African mud huts appear in building crevices. They are neat and rounded with a perfect cylindrical entrance. I’m slightly ashamed to say, the first time I found one of these structures I had no idea what it was and prodded it at arm’s length with a skewer until it crumbled, revealing a quite gruesome assortment of spider corpses, each stored in its own individual tomb cell.
I eventually worked out that the mud huts were the work of industrious Mud Dauber Wasps (similar to Potter Wasps, but the Potters store flies rather than spiders in their nurseries). The spiders are snacks for their growing larvae and are (initially) not actually corpses. Paralysed by the wasps’ sting they stay fresher for longer. We all want the very best for our children, the Mud Dauber is no different in that regard.
A garden wasp in England is perhaps a centimetre long. These mud daubers are a good inch, perhaps more. Slender, with a defined hourglass shape and sinister long back legs that dangle down make them look even larger in flight. Their loud buzzing and bright markings are worrying, but once you realise they’re not interested in attacking you and will help to keep down the spider population, (yes PLEASE), they’re not so scary anymore.