January 10, 2010
Saw this on the Grand Canyon rafting trip in 2008, my friend may have submitted it before, but I’m unable to locate it
This is a Paper Wasp in the genus Polistes, but the markings do not exactly match any of the species represented on BugGuide, though two species that are found in Arizona, Polistes apachus and Polistes arizonensis, has a similar coloration. According to BugGuide, the wasps in the genus Polistes are: “Large social wasps with long legs, usually brown, yellow markings typically less extensive than yellow jackets and hornets (Vespinae). Visit flowers. Build distinctive paper nests attached to a surface by a stalk. No outer covering of cells as in the Vespinae. Males have curly antennae and yellow faces, exception being P. annularis males, which have red faces just like females.” The angle of your photo isn’t exactly right to be certain, but it appears your specimen might have a yellow face indicating it is a male. We will try to get Eric Eaton’s opinion on this posting.
Update: June 8, 2010
Thanks to a comment by Ron Hennessey, we now know that this is a heretofore unrepresented species on our site, a Western Cicada Killer, Sphecius grandis, which is well represented on BugGuide.