The Gentle Bee - Orchard Mason Bee:

This small black gentle bee is a native of almost the entire continental United States. Mother Nature's great spring pollinator, the orchard mason bee (Osmia lignaria), was pollinating the fruits and flowers of the continent for millions of years before the first colonists brought the honey bee to North America.
This bee is not a hive dwelling social bee like the honey bee. It lays individual eggs in a mud walled cell that it has provisioned with pollen and nectar. Because it can not make it's own hole, it depends upon others for the nest site. In nature it frequently lays it's eggs in abandoned beetle holes in the old growth forest. In cities it will use the spaces between shingles on a dwelling or any other small holes it can find. If we provide proper holes for egg laying, the Orchard Mason is very easy to propagate at home. They are completely non-aggressive and perfectly safe to raise in your backyard. In my yard with children and dogs we all happily coexist. The males don't even have stingers and the females will only use theirs in times of true distress. In fact, unless you actually squeeze one of the females between your fingers, it is almost impossible to get stung.
The female Orchard Mason Bee visits flowers to collect pollen for its young. She forms a small ball of pollen and nectar in the back of the nesting tube and lays an egg on the ball. She then collects mud to form a cell partition and repeats the pollen ball-egg laying process until she reaches the mouth of the tube where she caps the end with mud. Starting the life cycle in the spring, adult males emerge from tubes first, but must wait for the later appearance of the females in order to mate. This event often coincides with the redbud (Cercis) or Pieris bloom. Females alone, begin founding new nests in holes to make a row of 5-10 cells in each nest. Females collect the pollen and nectar and lay eggs. Their short foraging range is about 100 yards from the nest. Activity continues 4-6 weeks and then adults die. During the summer, larvae develop inside the nests, make cocoons, and become new adults resting in the cells. With the onset of fall, the adults become dormant as they go into hibernation. These bees require some cold temperatures before spring in order to break their dormancy
The orchard mason bee is non-aggressive and will sting only if handled roughly or if it should get trapped under clothing. It is less objectionable than the honey bee as a pollinator in urban areas and should be encouraged. Efforts are being made experimentally to develop large populations of these bees to use as a supplement to honey bees for fruit pollination
Solitary Bee House $24.95
Provide a home for one of nature's best pollinators. Of the more than 20,000 species of bees, two of the most common are the blue orchard bee and the horn-faced bee. One-half to two-thirds the size of a honey bee, these passive bees live only six to eight weeks but lay eggs in this house. The eggs remain dormant through the fall and winter, and offspring emerge in the spring to pollinate plants. Hangs near the garden and requires no maintenance.
(12"h x 3-1/2"w x 4-1/4"d)