My friend took this picture of some wasps in her yard. I am familiar with yellow and black, but blue and black? Together. Saw your picture of the Sand Wasp, but these appear to be quite social. We live in the desert southwest part of Washington state.
We don’t want to make any attempts at an exact identification here until we consult Eric Eaton, but we believe this is an example of some species of Sand Wasp in the Subfamily Bembicinae.
Update (08/21/2008) From Eric Eaton
Your ID is correct, and I can add that the genus is Steniolia. In that part of the country, it is either Steniolia elegans or Steniolia scolopacea albicantia. Both genders are present in this “sleeping cluster.” Great documentation of this phenomenon. Would love to have the image (more if there are some more) over at Buggide. One of our contributors is writing a book on insect signs and phenomena, and this would make a great addition.
Update: (08/21/2008) blue jackets
My friend sent you the picture I took, and I’ve gone to the bugguide webpage, but sending an email is easier than registering, logging in, and then figuring out where I need to post my pictures. I actually was given the site whatsthatbug.com by a co-worker, but since our local extension office was also looking at them, I was waiting on them. Nah, I’ll try registering, and sending the pictures there, too. Nonetheless, the couple I have that are decent are attached. There are only a few left, and as the mornings get cooler, the few left have white or light green eyes in the morning. We had a lot more before the praying mantis found a big clump last week. I tried, unsuccessfully, to get a picture this morning. I do have a couple other pictures — one my neighbor took, and one each of a yellow and a blue wasp, after putting them in the freezer overnight (on the recommendation of the extension office). I took the bodies to our extension office. We live in the mid-columbia area of Washington State, which is a south-eastern part of the state. It is very arid, mostly grass and sagebrush, and a fairly low altitude. Our yard has taller grass, but we are still trying to keep it somewhat native. You’re right that these are sleeping clusters. They would clump together in the evening, and fly off in the morning after it got warm. They are very torpid in the evening and early morning.