Investigating physical and mechanical properties of nest soils used by mud dauber wasps from a geotechnical engineering perspective

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The quality of nest soils has significant effects on reproductive success in mud dauber species. This study investigated the physical and mechanical properties of the nest soils used by mud daubers from a geotechnical engineering perspective. One hundred thirty-one nests of black and yellow mud daubers were collected from five locations in the south of Louisiana. Moisture and organic contents, densities, void ratios, plasticity, grain size distributions, soil classifications, and penetration resistances of the nest soils were measured. Also, the performance of mud daubers' nest-compaction method (i.e., repetitive tapping produced by the front legs and mandibles) was evaluated by comparing the densities and penetration resistances between mud dauber nests and Proctor compacted nest soil samples. Scanning electron microscopy, energy-dispersive X-ray spectroscopy, and X-ray diffraction were used to measure the morphology, elemental composition, and mineralogy of the nest soils. Mud dauber nests were made of hard and very stiff well-graded silty soils. The high strengths and high densities of mud dauber nests were attributed to repetitive tapping (similar to vibratory compaction in geotechnical engineering) used by mud daubers for nest construction, high capillary cohesion in the nest soils, well-graded soil grain size distribution, and clay minerals serving as cementing agents in the nest soils.

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Scientific reports

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