A cloudy day. Ghoulish shadows dance together.
I stand on the patio watching a horde of creatures as they struggle for survival. I can relate.
Suddenly a small thing flits by me. It pauses, hangs in the air just in front of my face, and we size each other up for the briefest of moments.
Then she goes on about her business.
A female common potter wasp (a.k.a. dirt dauber; Eumenes fraternus) has decided a window screen is the perfect spot for one of her children. She has only just begun her work.
It will take her a few hours to complete the nest.
When she leaves to fetch more dirt with which to create another ball of mud, I put the tripod out and prep the camera to record her activities.
She doesn’t mind the closeness of the contraption any more than she is bothered by me. The camera gives her pause once or twice, brief moments of investigation before she moves on with her work.
With each trip the bowl takes shape, grows in a slow yet constant way that reminds me of time-lapse footage showing a mushroom sprouting from damp earth. With each visit it looks more and more like the pot it will become.
Her diligence is steadfast, her precision admirable. She will complete the nest in one day. Later should enough light remain or the following day if night falls too soon, she will provision it with caterpillars, spiders and other foodstuffs before depositing a single egg in its bosom and sealing its entrance.
After all the work is done, all the building and hunting, she will begin again. Perhaps near the first pot, perhaps in a different location, but she will repeat this task as often as she can with the eggs she carries inside her.
And when the last nest is built and the last egg laid, she will die. All her hope will rest in a series of mud pots.