Four-Toothed Mason Wasps

A four-toothed mason wasp
Four-Toothed Mason Wasp Classification
Class: Insecta
Order: Hymenoptera
Family: Vespidae
Genus: Monobia
Species: Monobia quadridens

The four-toothed mason wasp is a species of wasp known as Monobia quadridens. Four-toothed mason wasps are a solitary potter wasp that is typically found in North America. They were first described by Carl Linnaeus in 1763 as Vespa quadridens.

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    Why Are They Called Four-Toothed Mason Wasps?

    Four-toothed mason wasps get their scientific name, Monobia quadridens, from the Latin for “four,” quadi, and the Latin for “tooth,” dens. This supposedly refers to the white markings on the four-toothed mason wasps’ abdomens, which resemble teeth.

    In Greek, the word monos means “alone,” so the name Monobia is most likely derived from the fact that the species in this genus including the four-toothed mason wasp nest alone, thus the name. 

    Additionally, as the name suggests, the four-toothed “mason” wasps build their nests from tiny cells made of mud.

    Carl Linnaeus initially named four-toothed mason wasps, Vespa quadridens in 1763 in his work, Centuria Insectorum.[1]

    Where Can Four-Toothed Mason Wasps Be Found?

    The four-toothed mason wasp is found throughout North America, including Mexico. New Mexico, Wisconsin, and all the way to the East Coast are among the locations where four-toothed mason wasps can be found in the United States. 

    The four-toothed mason wasp is generally absent from tropical climates and is not found in places such as Europe or Australia.

    How to Identify a Four-Toothed Mason Wasp?

    The four-toothed mason wasp can be identified by its size, being less than an inch in wingspan and length. Male four-toothed mason wasps are slightly smaller than females. 

    The small white spot between their eyes and directly underneath their antennae can also be used to identify four-toothed mason wasps. Black is the color of the eyes, antennae, legs, and most of the wings of the four-toothed mason wasp.

    A four-toothed mason wasp is entirely black, with the exception of some small white markings on the top of its abdomen, at the bottom of its thorax, on the shoulders, and on the lower parts of its wings. 

    It is difficult to distinguish male and female four-toothed mason wasps due to their similar size, color, and shape. The male and female four-toothed mason wasps have pointy abdomens and long antennae, as well as long mandibles. 

    A male four-toothed mason wasp can be distinguished from a female by the absence of stingers. It is important, however, to note that the males use their pointed abdomens to dig into the skin in order to "sting".

    Four-toothed mason wasps are hairless and shiny, making them easy to distinguish from furry bees such as honey bees and bumblebees. 

    The four-toothed mason wasp has a distinct “waist” between the thorax and abdomen, as well as a distinct “neck” between the head and thorax, or the middle part between the head and abdomen. 

    The four-toothed mason wasp is sometimes confused with the bald-faced hornet. However, unlike this species, the four-toothed mason wasp does not possess white markings at the end of its abdomen.

     Additionally, four-toothed mason wasps are solitary, whereas the bald-faced hornet lives in paper nests.

    Where Do Four-Toothed Mason Wasps Live?

    Four-toothed mason wasps are solitary insects, which means they live in their own nest and lay their eggs alone, if they are females. The four-toothed mason wasp prefers to live in meadows and woodlands. [2]

    It is sometimes possible to find four-toothed mason wasps living in holes around windows and doors. [3]

    A variety of other holes can be used by the four-toothed mason wasp to nest, including old carpenter bee nests, old mud dauber nests, hollow plant stems, and holes left over from the construction of a house. 

    It has been reported that four-toothed masons wasps even find their way into the active nests of other wasp and bee species, killing any insects that are present within and taking over the nest. [4]

    There are many locations where four-toothed mason wasps can be found, making it somewhat difficult to identify their nests. Four-toothed mason wasp nests often resemble small holes in dirt or wood, or the remnants of other species’ nests.

    There are tiny cells made of mud inside the nest of the four-toothed mason wasp, which is why it is called a mason wasp. 

    After laying their eggs and hatching them, four-toothed mason wasps feed their larvae on paralyzed caterpillars stored in these cells.

    What Do Four-Toothed Mason Wasps Eat?

    As adults, four-toothed mason wasps eat nectar from flowers, whereas larvae feed on caterpillars. 

    A female four-toothed mason wasp captures caterpillars using its long mandibles and stings them in order to paralyze them. As a result, the caterpillars are then brought back to the nest where they are fed to the larvae of the four-toothed mason wasp.

    Adult four-toothed mason wasps feed by flying from flower to flower and drinking their nectar.

    Do Four-Toothed Mason Wasps Pollinate?

    Four-toothed mason wasps pollinate flowers when they feed on nectar from flowers. It should be noted that because the four-toothed mason wasp is not hairy like the bee, they are less efficient pollinators.

    Pollination is a phenomenon that occurs when insects such as the four-toothed mason wasp fly from flower to flower, collecting pollen on their bodies and transferring it from one flower to another. 

    The body of a four-toothed mason wasp is usually shiny and hairless, which means pollen tends to collect on its legs and feet rather than sticking to them as it might on the hair of a bee. 

    In spite of this, four-toothed mason wasps are still significant pollinators of many flowers and plants.

    Do Four-Toothed Mason Wasps Make Honey?

    Most species of wasps, including the four-toothed mason wasp, do not produce honey. As four-toothed mason wasps have other sources of food, such as nectar and small caterpillars, they do not require honey to feed their young.

    While honeybees produce honey and defend it aggressively with their stingers, four-toothed mason wasps are typically non-aggressive because they do not possess any food stores. [5]

    Do Four-Toothed Mason Wasps Sting?

    The female four-toothed mason wasps sting, but they must be provoked to do so because they are not aggressive in nature. In the event that four-toothed mason wasps sting, they do so as a result of fear of being attacked. 

    The four-toothed mason wasp typically does not stay around to defend its nest, which means it has nothing to protect. 

    One distinctive feature of four-toothed mason wasps is that even the males “sting”, using their pointy abdomens to dig into the skin. 

    Despite the fact that male four-toothed mason wasps lack stingers, their “sting” still causes minor discomfort, about the same pain as a pin prick.

    Four-Toothed Mason Wasp vs. Yellow Jacket

    Four-toothed Mason Wasp Yellow Jacket
    Appearance Almost an inch long, with stark white markings on a shiny black background. About half an inch long, with bright yellow markings on a black background.
    Behavior Slow down in the cold. Fly side-to-side before landing on flowers or in nests.
    Stinging Females can and do stings, males use the ends of their abdomens to deliver a sting like a pinprick but they do not actually have stingers. Females can and do sting, but not aggressively. Often, they sting repeatedly.
    Nest Dug in the ground, often in moist soil or built-in existing holes left behind by other wasps and insects. Built from chewed-up wood fiber and built-in trees, bushes, or under the eaves of houses. Easily recognizable as the classic paper wasp nest.
    Solitary vs. social Solitary wasps who live alone and have no queen. Social wasps who live in colonies and have a queen.
    Diet Sugars and carbohydrates from flower nectar for adults, solely paralyzed caterpillar parts for larvae. Sugars and carbohydrates from flowers for adults, proteins from insects, meats, and fish for larvae. Yellowjackets often prey on pest species, making them beneficial to agriculture.
    Reproduction Females reproduce and lay eggs in a solitary manner, and there is no queen. One generation per year, a single queen produces all the eggs for one colony. Colony includes worker wasps, drone wasps, and one queen wasp.

    Reproduction & Lifecycle of Four-Toothed Mason Wasps

    The four-toothed mason wasp produces two generations per year, the first being born from eggs laid in the spring and the second from eggs laid in the late summer. 

    The eggs from the second generation overwinter as larvae in their nest and emerge the following spring. The four-toothed mason wasps mate following the emergence of the spring generation in March. 

    It is the male four-toothed mason wasp that emerges first and begins to wait for the females. As soon as the females emerge, the four-toothed mason wasps mate for about 30 minutes, which is quite a long duration for wasps. 

    The female four-toothed mason wasps construct brood cells from mud in their nests and lay their eggs within them. To create food for the larvae of the four-toothed mason wasp, they fly around looking for caterpillars to sting and paralyze. 

    Because the larvae of the four-toothed mason wasp do not spin cocoons, they usually freeze over the winter as a result of the lack of insulation. 

    Due to the death caused by freezing, the four-toothed mason wasps must lay many more eggs than they think they need.

    The male larvae of the four-toothed mason wasp hatch first, which is why they are laid closer to the nest entrance than the females so that they may leave the nest without disturbing the pupating female larvae. 

    The females follow shortly after the males hatch, and this new generation of four-toothed mason wasps begins to mate. 

    A four-toothed mason wasp generation lasts for approximately six weeks before dying off and being replaced by a new generation. 

    The second generation of four-toothed mason wasps in the season remain in their nests as larvae, feeding on caterpillars until spring returns. 

    During mid-March, the four-toothed mason wasp males begin to emerge and mating begins again, thereby resuming the lifecycle.


    [1] Wikipedia [2] Kidadl [3] Bug of the Week [4] [5]

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