Today was my first full day home since last Monday, and I was sick for nearly a week leading up to that. So I took advantage of the beautiful weather in NYC and got out into the garden. The weeds had gotten away from me, and I spent most of my time dealing with them, at least a little bit.
I then turned my attention to the center of activity in the backyard: the massive specimen of New England Aster that just started to bloom in my absence. It's a selection of the species I ordered from Seneca Hill Perennials, which specializes in New York native plants, a couple years back. It didn't do much at first. In the full sun it's enjoyed since I had to take down the last of the weedy maples last year, it has grown to shrublike proportions - 5' wide and high - mocking the meager 1-2' spacing I provided between it and the plants around it. Today's pollinator activity concentrated on just the handful of open flowers. It has hundreds of buds. When it's in full bloom, the activity will be audible.
I was watching for bees, and there were a lot of different species visiting. This wasp was the most striking visitor. It's Monobia quadridens, the Mason Wasp. From the antennae, I think it's a male. Thanks to tangledbranches for the ID!
Judging from the photos on its BugGuide page alone, this is a common species with a wide distribution. It's native to eastern North America. From a gardener's perspective, this is a beneficial insect. It provisions its young with caterpillars in nests burrowed into the ground or bored into wood; it's also known as a Carpenter Wasp. I've never noticed it before. I hope to see more of it as the Aster comes into full bloom.