Friends of Hopewell Valley Open Space and local artist, Ruth Jourjine, collaborated to create the Summer Triangle Bee Project. This public art project brings together sculpture and native plants to provide habitat for pollinators. Grant funding generously provided by the Washington Crossing Audubon Society.
Each Summer Triangle features a south-pointing triangle planted with native wildflowers and grasses. In the triangle's center, three cedar posts hold ceramic forms and nesting areas for native bees. A hand wrought fence of reeds, also utilized by bees for nesting, surrounds the native plants.
Summer Triangle immediately after planting, wildflowers to bloom soon! Image: R. Mackow
Summer...the hum of bees visiting wildflowers, gardens, and orchards.
The pollen and nectar of native plants assure a steady supply of food for pollinators. When bees visit flowers for food, they pollinate those plants. Successful pollination means fruit and seed set.
Native bees, including squash bees, orchard mason bees, and bumblebees are excellent pollinators of cultivated vegetables and orchards. About one third of our food and drink requires a pollinator1.
While the population declines of European honeybees are in the news, native bee populations are also in decline. Small "habitat patches" of native plants can increase the population of local native bees on our nature preserves...and at home.
1Xerces Xociety, Attracting Native Pollinators (North Adams: Storey Publishing, 2011), 5.
Bumblebee (Bombus impatiens) & New England aster, R. Jourjine
When foraging for food, bees rarely sting. Many bees' stingers are too weak to pierce human skin. Social, hive-dwelling bees may defend the nest when provoked. Solitary bees, like sweat bees, don't defend their nests aggressively. The majority of bees are solitary.
In the summer months, the brightest stars of three constellations – Aquila, Cygnus, and Lyra – form a triangle-shaped asterism (arrangement of stars). The "Summer Triangle" lies overhead in the northern latitude night sky around the same time native bees' food sources and population also reach a peak in their life cycles. In the twentieth century, pilots used the Summer Triangle for navigation prior to the invention of modern systems like GPS. Bees navigate with a sense of direction between food source plants and nest sites.
Our "Summer Triangles" have used the triangular form to outline habitat patches and draw public interest to the plight of native bees.
Bumblebee & Joe pye weed. Image: R. Mackow
New Jersey is home to over 400 species of native bees. All require native plants for food and shelter.
Native bees vary in size – bumblebees are up to an inch long and green sweat bees are under a inch long. Nesting site preference also varies. Some nest underground in sunny, well drained soils. Wood nesting bees use hollow stemmed plants or rotting wood. Last, native bees can be solitary (laying eggs singly) or social (hive-dwelling).
Male green sweat bee & Goldenrod. Image: R. Mackow
Summer Triangles are located at the following nature preserves in Hopewell Township, NJ:
Habitat patches aren't only on nature preserves, they're in your backyard! Learn more about how Friends of Hopewell Valley Open Space can help through the Private Lands Stewardship Program: www.fohvos.org/PLSP.