Mason, blue orchard or Metallic leafcutter bees, Osmia
are very competent pollinators. One of the Cherry Orchards in Utah
found a 300% increase in yield when they switched from European
honey bees to Blue Orchard Bees (in How to Manage the Blue Orchard Bee
by Bosch and Kemp). These little buzzers are about half the size of
Honey bees but their brain seems bigger and they'll work the flowers on
cloudy days and earlier in the morning and later in the evening. They build their nests in cracks in
rocks, mud or woody material.They plug the nest entrance hole with leaves and then with
Mason bees do have stingers but only use them to defend themselves from things like dumb human hands squishing them.
If you have a garden or an orchard and want to attract these little bees, plant some early-season flowering plants Arctostaphylos glauca
or 'Austin Griffin'
manzanitas to provide food for them before your crop flowers, and some late-season flowering plants, Salvias
to provide food for them, when hardly any crop plants are flowering. This way you can build up their population, and keep them alive and thriving all year round, and they will repay your effort by helping to increase your crop yields in your garden or orchard.