potter wasp

(Eumenes fraternus)

Conservation Status

IUCN Red List

not yet assessed

potter wasp


not listed


not listed




July to September


Woodland edges, shrubby fields


Total Length: to ¾


This is a solitary wasp—it does not nest in colonies.

The upper (dorsal) plate (scutum) of the middle segment of the thorax has two small projections at the rear corners called parategula.

The first abdominal segment (propodium) is narrow and elongated, and gradually increases in width from the point of attachment at the thorax.

There is a narrow, ivory-colored, marking on the thorax just behind the head, at the rear of the first abdominal segment, and on the second abdominal segment. There are also two ivory-colored spots on the sides of the third abdominal segment.

The wings are folded longitudinally at rest.



Larval Food

Beetle larvae, spiders, or small caterpillars, and often spring cankerworms

Adult Food

Flower nectar

Life Cycle

Females build a small mud jug-shaped nest (pot) often on a twig. The shape of the nest is the source of the common name of this wasp. They provision the pot with previously paralyzed beetle larvae, spiders, or small caterpillars, and often spring cankerworms (Paleacrita vernata). A single egg is suspended by a slender thread from the top of the side of the pot. A nest may have more than one cell. Offspring overwinter in the pot in the embryo stage. When the egg hatches the larva drops onto the food source and begins to feed. Adults emerge from the side of the pot in July of the following year.



Distribution Distribution Map  

Sources: 7, 24, 27, 29.





Hymenoptera (ants, bees, wasps, and sawflies)



Apocrita (wasps, ants and bees)


No Rank:




Vespoidea (vespoid wasps)



Vespidae (wasps)



Eumeninae (potter wasps)




potter wasp









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  Potter Wasp
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  potter wasp (Eumenes fraternus)
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  Potter Wasp (Eumenes fraternus)

Uploaded on May 3, 2008

Potter Wasp (Eumenes fraternus)

Potter wasps (or mason wasps) are a cosmopolitan wasp group presently treated as a subfamily of Vespidae, but sometimes recognized in the past as a separate family, Eumenidae.

Most eumenine species are black or brown, and commonly marked with strikingly contrasting patterns of yellow, white, orange, or red (or combinations thereof), but some species, mostly from tropical regions, show faint to strong blue or green metallic highlights in the background colors. Like most vespids, their wings are folded longitudinally at rest. They are particularly recognized by the following combination of characters:


1) Mesoscutum with a posterolateral projection known as parategula; 2) Tarsal claws cleft; 3) Hind coxae with a longitudinal dorsal carina or folding, often developed into a lobe or tooth; 4) Fore wing with 3 submarginal cells.


Eumenine wasps are diverse in nest building. The different species may either use pre-existing cavities (such as beetle tunnels in wood, abandoned nests of other hymenoptera or even man-made holes like old nail holes and even screw shafts on electronic devices) that they modify in several degrees, or they construct their own either underground or exposed nests. The nest may have one to multiple individual brood cells. The most widely-used building material is mud made of a mixture of earth and regurgitated water, but many species use chewed plant material instead.

The name "potter wasp" derives from the shape of the mud nests built by species of Eumenes and similar genera. It is believed that Native Americans based their pottery designs upon the form of local potter wasp nests. [von Frisch, 1974].

All known eumenine species are predators, most of them solitary mass provisioners, though some isolated species show primitive states of social behaviour and progressive provisioning.

When a cell is completed, the adult wasp typically collects beetle larvae, spiders or caterpillars and, paralyzing them, places them in the cell to serve as food for a single wasp larva. As a normal rule, the adult wasp lays a single egg in the empty cell before provisioning it. Some species lay the egg in the opening of the cell, suspended from a thread of dried fluid. When the wasp larva hatches, it drops and start to feed upon the supplied prey for a period of time that normally last some few weeks before pupating. The complete life cycle may last from a few weeks to more than a year from the egg until the adult emerges. Adult potter wasps feed on floral nectar.


They are the most diverse subfamily of vespids, with more than 200 genera, and contain the vast majority of species in the family. The overwhelming morphological diversity of the potter wasp species is reflected in the proliferation of genera described to group them in more manageable groups. You can see here the list of potter wasp genera.

Eumenes is the type genus of the subfamily Eumeninae ("potter wasps") of Vespidae. It is a large and widespread genus, with over 100 taxa (species and subspecies), mostly occurring in the temperate portions of the Northern Hemisphere. Most species are black or brown, and commonly marked with strikingly contrasting patterns of yellow, white, orange, or red (or combinations thereof). Like most vespids, their wings are folded longitudinally at rest. The first metasomal segment is narrow and elongate, creating a "bulbous" appearance to the abdomen.

The genus was named after the Greek general Eumenes. The root of the name has been widely used to construct many other genus-level names for potter wasps with petiolated metasoma like Brachymenes, Santamenes, Oreumenes, Pachymenes, Katamenes, etc. Most of those groups have been treated as part of the genus Eumenes for a long time.

  Potter wasp, cleaning up

Published on Nov 19, 2013

Eumenes fraternus on BugGuide: 867634





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