Delta latreillei (Potter Wasp)Potter Wasp – identity crisis Potter Wasp – larder Potter Wasp – mud nest Potter Wasp – water

The Australian wasp commonly known as the Potter Wasp (Delta latreillei, previously classified as Eumenes latreilli) or Mud Wasp is a boldly coloured wasp with vivid orange and black markings. It is also known as Orange-tailed Potter Wasp. They are sometimes referred to as Australian hornets, however this is incorrect, as true hornets are not native to Australia.

In Australia, the term ‘hornet’ is often applied to any large wasp, particularly if it should be black and orange. However, this use of the term is incorrect as true hornets do not occur in Australia.

Hornets and Large Wasps, Entomology Factsheets, Western Australian Museum

Delta latreillei is a large potter wasp, that is widespread and abundant across tropical and subtropical Australia.

Orange-tailed Potter Wasp (Delta latreillei), Alice Springs NT
Orange-tailed Potter Wasp (Delta latreillei), Alice Springs NT

The common name of Potter Wasp / Mud Wasp is used to described a number of species that may look similar, but are different genus and/or species such as Delta latreillei and Abispa ephippium.

Mud Wasp (Abispa ephippium), Alice Springs Desert Park
Mud Wasp (Abispa ephippium), Alice Springs Desert Park

You can see some visual differences between Delta latreillei and Abispa ephippium in the following photograph (A. ephippium is the wasp at the top of the photo).

Orange Potter Wasp species resting in the shade of a lemon tree
Orange Potter Wasp species resting in shade of a lemon tree on a hot summer day in Alice Springs, NT

The alternate common names of Potter Wasp, Mud Wasp, Mason Wasp, is due to the material they use to build their nests. They use available local mud, from the reddish brown to the sandy coloured soil. These wasps are not to be confused with the Mud Dauber, who also build their nests from mud.

The mud wasps are solitary insects, that belong to the vespid family Vespidae of insects that are native to Australia. This family of insects is said to number nearly 5,000 species, that include eusocial wasps as well as the many species of solitary wasps.

Potter Wasp (Eumenes latreilli), Alice Springs, NT
Potter Wasp (Delta latreillei), Alice Springs, NT

Found throughout Australia, and quite common in Central Australia, the Potter Wasp are usually found where there is access to water, including ponds and pools, especially as these provide a source of water, from which they mix with clay type sand to create a mud paste for making their nests and adding to existing mud nests.

The nests of the Potter Wasp are varied in size and shapes, subject to the different species of mud wasps. They are often built against the walls of buildings, along the mortar line of bricks, window frames, even a small nest can be built on a hook. Some species do build their nests on the ground.

Many Mud Wasps, their off-springs or wasps of the same species appear to come back to the same nest year after year, adding more mud to the existing structure. Entrance holes are created into cavities within the mud nest where they place their prey (usually caterpillars) for the larva to feed on. The hole is then sealed.

Following is one of the mud nest cavities that the Potter Wasp was building, packing more mud on top, before laying the larva with the caterpillars for food.

Adding a new cell to the mud nest by the Mud Wasp (Eumenes latreilli), Alice Springs, NT
Adding a new cell to the mud nest by the Mud Wasp (Delta latreillei), Alice Springs, NT

The evidence of the larvae having pupated into the adult wasp and having left the nest is the exposed hole opening. The following is a damaged mud nest with the Potter Wasp larva.

You can read more information on the mud nest and potter wasps here:

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  • Scientific classification
  • Kingdom: Animalia
  • Phylum: Arthropoda
  • Class: Insecta
  • Order: Hymenoptera
  • Family: Vespidae
  • Subfamily: Eumeninae
  • Genus: Delta
  • Species: Delta latreillei

    previously
  • Genus: Eumenes
  • Species: E. latreilli
  • Subspecies: Delta latreillei latreillei

Footnote & References

  1. Orange Potter Wasp – Eumenes latreilli, Brisbane Insects and Spider, https://www.brisbaneinsects.com/brisbane_vespoidwasps/PotterWasp2.htm
  2. Potter Wasps, Australian Museum, https://australian.museum/learn/animals/insects/potter-wasps/
  3. Subfamily Eumeninae – Potter Wasps and Mud Nesting Wasps, https://www.brisbaneinsects.com/brisbane_vespoidwasps/Eumeninae.htm
  4. Potter Wasps, Department of Primary Industries, NSW Government, https://www.dpi.nsw.gov.au/biosecurity/plant/bees-and-wasps/potter-wasps
  5. Hornets and Large Wasps, Western Australian Museum, https://museum.wa.gov.au/research/collections/terrestrial-zoology/entomology-insect-collection/entomology-factsheets/hornets-large-wasps
  6. Delta latreillei (Saussure, 1852), Atlas of living Australia, https://bie.ala.org.au/species/urn:lsid:biodiversity.org.au:afd.taxon:8ff04785-58d1-4944-984a-1703df7d7375
  7. Delta bicinctum, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Delta_bicinctum (last visited Jan. 8, 2022)
  8. Delta Saussure, Global Biodiversity Information Facility, GBIF, https://www.gbif.org/species/1330315/treatments
  9. Robert W. Matthews, Janice R. Matthews, “Nesting Behavior of Abispa ephippium (Fabricius) (Hymenoptera: Vespidae: Eumeninae): Extended Parental Care in an Australian Mason Wasp”, Psyche: A Journal of Entomology, vol. 2009, Article ID 851694, 15 pages, 2009. https://doi.org/10.1155/2009/851694

Delta latreillei (Potter Wasp)Potter Wasp – identity crisis Potter Wasp – larder Potter Wasp – mud nest Potter Wasp – water

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