I do know enough about entomology that I realized it was a wasp, and that at least provides a starting point. But just knowing that generality wasn't good enough. I am without doubt a born taxonomist, although I don't say that to mean that I am a good or gifted taxonomist. It's just that I can't stand NOT knowing the name of something. I don't like generic identifications.
I was particularly curious about this micro-wasp for two reasons: it was striking in appearance; and it was a species that I was pretty sure I hadn't yet come across. So, after obtaining these so-so images - but they do show diagnostic characters - I set out to name it. Fortunately, I soon stumbled into THIS PAPER, which does an admirable job of delineating our vespid wasps. Largely by matching photos, I came up with an identity of Ancistrocerus gazella.
However, the wasp world is enormous, and there are plenty of look-alike species. Also, in this case, I could find no reference to this introduced species of wasp as being recorded from Ohio. So, where to turn for expert input?
This website is certainly the most comprehensive and awesome library of insect information on the Internet. Legions of experts and specialists routinely lurk there, and they are often quick to pin names on photographs of mystery bugs that are submitted. I uploaded my wasp photos, asking for a confirmation of my identification, and eventually Richard Vernier chimed in and reported that it was indeed the European tube wasp, Ancistrocerus gazella. Excellent!
Insects rank high on the list of animals that people wish to name. It's a vast and confusing world, and pinning a tag on that strange beetle that was in your basement can be tough. A trip to Bug Guide can help solve the mystery.
By the way, if anyone knows the status of the European tube wasp in Ohio, please let me know.