Semester of Graduation

Fall 2020


Master of Civil Engineering (MCE)


Department of Civil & Environmental Engineering

Document Type



Mud dauber wasps construct their nests using soil from adjacent areas. Mud dauber nests have been studied from an entomological perspective. However; the properties of the nest material remain unexplored from a soil engineering perspective. This study investigated the physical and mechanical properties of the nest soil for use in future bio-inspired design to improve soil behavior as a construction material. To achieve this goal, nests from three mud dauber species (black and yellow, organ pipe, and steel blue) were collected from locations near Baton Rouge, Louisiana. The shape, weight, moisture content, organic content, and specific gravity of the nests were measured and analyzed using statistical analysis. The average specific gravity of the nests was relatively low (about 2.6). Mud daubers may be able to select specific soil particles for constructing their nests, such as quartz, feldspars, and calcite. Particle size analysis of the nest soil was conducted and compared to the soil's particle size distribution from adjacent areas. The comparison shows that mud daubers collect silt and sand with a small portion of clay for nest construction. The nest soil was classified as low plastic sandy silt based on the Revised Soil Classification System (RSCS). Penetrometer tests were used to investigate the unconfined compression strength of the nests. The penetrometer test results indicate that the nest soils are classified as very stiff soil, which is attributed to the unique soil structure, packing, and moisture content. The dry densities of mud dauber nests could be higher than the maximum densities achieved from the lab compaction test. This might indicate that mud dauber has a particularly effective method for compacting the nest during nest construction. Scanning Electron Microscopy (SEM) imaging showed the soil particle packing in the nest construction. Energy Dispersive Spectrum (EDS) revealed the nests' element composition, including calcium, silicon, oxygen, and carbon.

Committee Chair

lin, Hai