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Potter Wasp (Eumenes fraternus)

Detailing the physical features, habits, territorial reach and other identifying qualities of the Potter Wasp

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The purple winged, parasitic Potter Wasp forms urn-shaped chambers for its offspring, an extravagant display of parental care.

Updated: 07/07/2021; Authored By Staff Writer; Content ©www.InsectIdentification.org
Potter Wasps make tiny nests that look like ceramic jugs or pots. They build these small containers nests on twigs, branches, or on the trunks of trees. Each pot has only one chamber, unlike the many chambers found inside a honeybee hive. A female lays just one egg inside the chamber and then places paralyzed caterpillars inside with the egg before sealing the pot at the opening. The potter wasp larva eats the caterpillars as it grows and develops before digging its way out of the side of the chamber; the top of the pot is the thickest part and more work to break through.

This type of wasp is not aggressive and females do not guard the pots. Potter Wasps are most active during the summer, helping reduce caterpillar populations that would otherwise nibble away at plant leaves. Emptied pots can be removed from trees, but if one it is intact, leave it until the Potter Wasp inside has made its way out into the world.

General Characteristics
Capability, Shape, Texture/Pattern, Benefits, Dangers
Flying insect icon
Insect stinger icon


Taxonomic Hierarchy
Species Breakdown
Kingdom: Animalia
  Phylum: Arthropoda
    Class: Insecta
      Order: Hymenoptera
        Family: Vespidae
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          Genus: Eumenes
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            Species: fraternus
Identifying Information
Size, Colors, Features
Scientific Name: Eumenes fraternus
Category: Bee, Ant, Wasp and Similar
Size (Adult; Length): 9mm to 19mm (0.35" to 0.74")
Colorwheel Graphic Colors: cream, black, yellow, white, purple
Descriptors: skinny, iridescent, flying, stinging

Relative Size Comparison
Typical Size Between 9mm (0.4in) and 19mm (0.7in)
Lo: 9mm
Md: 14mm
Hi: 19mm
Territorial Map*
U.S., Canada, and Mexico
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Prince Edward Is.  
* MAP NOTES: The territorial heat map above showcases (in red) the states and territories of North America where the Potter Wasp may be found (but is not limited to). This sort of data is useful when attempting to see concentrations of particular species across the continent as well as revealing possible migratory patterns over a species' given lifespan. Some insects are naturally confined by environment, weather, mating habits, food resources and the like while others see widespread expansion across most, or all, of North America. States/Territories shown above are a general indicator of areas inhabited by the Potter Wasp. Insects generally go where they please, typically driven by diet, environmental changes, and / or mating habits.


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