From modern skyscrapers to the Egyptian pyramids, the human world has accomplished many architectural feats. But humans aren’t the only architects on earth. Species of birds, mammals, bugs, and even fish build amazing homes and nests in nature.
Some tiny insects construct towers that are twice an average human’s size. Other animals carve beautiful ring designs into the ground. All of these and more are amazing facets of the animal kingdom. See how awesome nature is through these animal architects!
Indian Harvester Ants Are Still A Mystery
Instead of building tents or nests, Indian harvester ants carve rings into the earth. The ants raise clay to form a maze of circular walls in front of their home’s entrance. Underground, their colony includes several tunnels that invaders could not easily navigate.
Scientists still don’t know why Indian harvester ants build ringed mounds that span 18 inches in diameter. The most common theories are that the structure directs more air underground and that the walls could disperse water. In either case, their nests are beautiful and unique.
Cathedral Termites Are Aptly Named
If you ever visit northwest Australia and see a 15-foot-tall mound, don’t mess with it. Chances are, that’s the home of cathedral termites. Oddly, these termites don’t live in the upper floors of their towers; their nests are underground below the mounds.
Recent research suggests that termites build high towers to protect their food. Cathedral termites farm a fungus that needs enough humidity to grow, and in a dry climate (even underground), their food would dry out. The towers form an entirely different habitat for the termites.
The Bagworm’s Log Cabin
Although the bagworm moth is a danger to botanists, it’s still one of nature’s best architects. Unlike other moths, bagworm’s larvae immediately weave cocoons after they’re born. To protect them, the moths build intricate log cabins.
Bagworms gather twigs, sticks, leaves, and rocks. They build a protective case for their larvae, but instead of leaving it behind, the moths carry the case wherever they go. Like turtles, bagworms move slowly by dragging their case behind them. A small hole lets the full-grown adults leave, and as the larvae grow, the mothers build larger cases for them.
Horned Coots Build Entire Islands
Horned coots waddle through the waters of South America, and they battle many predators on land. To protect their young, horned coots don’t build nests on trees; they create an island. Horned coots gather pebbles and pile them over 100 feet from shore to create one large island.
Although horned coots are monogamous, they live in colonies of up to 80 pairs. They cover their islands with around 1.5 tons of pebbles and a soft layer of algae on the top. There, no predators can reach their chicks.
Caddisfly Larvae Become Art Projects
Before they become moths, caddisflies live underwater in streams, lakes, and springs. To protect themselves from predators, caddisflies build cases around themselves. The larvae grab whatever they can find–twigs, gravel, leaf pieces–and chew them into a paste that they can mold. Using their silk, they bind the materials together.
Unlike other animals, caddisflies aren’t picky about what they use to build their tents. This tendency inspired a French artist named Hubert Duprat in the 1980s. He surrounded caddisflies with opals, pearls, and gold flakes so they could build little works of art.
Oceanic Crop Circles By Japanese Puffer Fish
Divers in Japan may run into what look like crop circles on the seafloor. Underneath these sand rings, pufferfish wait for a mate. The males flap their fins to create sand art as a courting offer. Although the fish are only five inches long, their circles could stretch seven feet across.
The fish also gathers certain sediment and shells to decorate the outside of the circle. If the female pufferfish enjoy the artwork, they’ll mate with the males. The female will lay eggs in the center of the circle, which becomes the new nest.
Baya Weavers Have A Unique Approach To Nests
Baya weaver birds are aptly named. The males sew grass in and out of each other to form elaborate nests. These nests usually look like upside-down flasks that are difficult to enter unless you’re a tiny bird. What better way to woo a female and start a family?
Baya weavers breed during the summer monsoon season when the grass turns green. Throughout the season, the nest protects the family from harsh rains and predators. The nests also hang from thorny trees that other animals struggle to navigate.
Grebes Create Floating Nests
Grebes are tiny water birds with a unique approach to nest-building. Instead of making a stationary nest, grebes build a floating nest. By diving into the water, grebes gather decaying plants and pile it on top of the water. These plants are light enough to form a floating mass.
When little grebes lay eggs, the raft sinks from the weight. The grebe quickly gathers more moss to pad under the egg, so that the eggs remain warm. Their chicks stay high enough to stay dry until they hatch.
Who Can Forget Honeybees?
Who can discuss animal architects without mentioning bees? Honeybees create beautiful hives that beekeepers can extract honey from. Their hives don’t only provide food and shelter but also supplies to build more. The bees chew on honey to harden it into wax, and then they use the wax to construct new walls (hence the term “beeswax”).
The beautiful hexagonal shapes are formed to house larvae. They also store honey and pollen. Using nectar and plant pollen, the bees create propolis, also called “bee glue.” Everything in their hives is tightly organized like the gears in a watch.
Beavers are most well-known for building impressive dams across rivers. But why do they make these dams? Beavers construct dams to shelter their families. Inside of their dams, there’s space to form a small pond. This pond lets the beavers eat and enter their dams without fear of predators.
Beaver dams can grow up to ten feet tall and 1,600 feet long. The largest beaver dam ever recorded was 2,790 feet in length! These dams create wetlands, which host a variety of other animal species. Their dams re-design the entire habitat around that.
Weaver Ants Construct Living Homes
Weaver ants are put to work right after their birth. These golden ants bend leaves into tiny tents that outline trees. They then use their larvae to secrete silk that binds the leaves together. The result is a strange but beautiful cocoon of leaves.
The ants don’t always pick off plants; they use living leaves that are still connected to the tree. As a result, their homes remain warm and humid to prevent the ants from drying out. Weaver ants can carry over 100 times their weight, even when they’re upside-down.
African Weaver Birds Take Over Trees
If you wander around southern Africa, you may see enormous bushes hanging from trees. These are the nests of weaver birds, and they can remain there for hundreds of years. Weaver birds forge the largest nests of any bird, which can house over 400 residents. Each nest provides several separate chambers.
Weaver birds construct the nests by laying down sticks and padding the walls with soft grass. In the entrance, the birds line spiky straw pieces that ward off predators. The big nests remain warm at night and provide shade during the day.
This Isn’t Just A Dirt Mound
In the forests of Europe and North America, large domes of debris dot the floor. Redwood ants create these domes. These red-and-black ants gather needles, grass, and other debris to build an enormous home. The ants also collect resin, which they place at the entrance to disinfect themselves before they enter.
Over one year, a redwood ant colony can grow to over 10 million members. These ants farm aphids by clipping their wings to prevent them from escaping. If they ever need a new home, the ants will insert a queen egg into another ant to take over their colony.
The Bowerbird Decorates His Home With Toys
While most birds build nests in trees, the Vogelkop Bowerbird erects a hut on the ground. Male bowerbirds create these bowers to attract females. Trying to upstage each other, they decorate their homes with anything pretty–flowers, coins, bottle caps, glass, and even tiny toys.
The cone-shaped huts tend to trip up residents of Australia. They can tower up to three feet high, and piles of flowers or junk may surround them. If you see these, leave them be; know that a mating ritual is in progress.
Hornet Nests Are Frightening And Awe-Inspiring
Hornets build the largest nests of any wasp. While paper wasps make small umbrella-shaped nests, and yellowjackets burrow underground, hornets construct giant football-shaped homes. Hornet nests house colonies, and as their colony grows, so does their nest.
The nests are built to provide shade and protection. The hornets chew wood pulp to make it sticky and fashion it into walls. One opening allows the bugs to arrive and leave. It’s no wonder why home-owners feel intimidated if hornets decide to attach a nest to their attic.
The Red Ovenbird And Its Dutch Oven
Ovenbirds are tiny songbirds that only grow up to 5.5 inches tall. Their name comes from their nest, which looks like a Dutch oven. The red ovenbird, also called the rufous hornero, is the national bird of Argentina and Uruguay. It’s known for building a “clay oven” to care for its young.
Pairs of red ovenbirds work for weeks, sometimes months, to bring over two thousand pellets of mud to their nest. You can find their nests on branches, telephone poles, and fences. They shape the nests into tiny domes with a circular entryway. These nests make it harder for predators to snatch their chicks.
These Termite Towers Are Also Compasses
In Northern Australia, another breed of termites builds towers. But these mounds are tall, thin, and tombstone-shaped. Compass termites always orient their nests north-to-south, hence their name. Thousands if not millions of termites live in each tower.
Researchers believe that compass termites follow the magnetic field for comfort. When their nests face north-south, the sun doesn’t hit it in a way that could dry out the termites. Plus, the termites construct their nests out of sharp needles that can potentially steer predators away.
Spiders Live Together On One Web
In 2007, residents of Rowlett, Texas noticed that a single spider web covered multiple neighborhood trees. Instead of belonging to one spider (like most breeds), this web housed thousands of spiders. The web has continued to expand since then, thanks to Texas’ population of long-jawed spiders.
Scientists call this a rare phenomenon among spiders. While most breeds don’t tolerate each other, these long-jawed spiders decided to stay together because they have plenty of food. There’s also no need to worry; these spiders are not aggressive and don’t usually bite.
Mud Daubers Make Foolproof Tubes
Mud daubers are a species of wasp that make their nests a bit differently from other insects. Also called dirt daubers, these wasps find specific types of mud to carry to their nest. Next, they use their saliva (and sometimes their vomit) to construct a unique nest.
Mud daubers shape their nests as tubes. Inside, they keep their eggs and paralyzed spiders. After the eggs hatch, these spiders become food. Although mud daubers’ nests aren’t big or grande, they’re unique compared to other animals.
A Hierarchy Of Bird Nests
Montezuma oropendolas fly between the Caribbean and South America. Unlike other birds, who nest in pairs, male oropendolas have many mates–sometimes 30 at one time. They inhabit tall, isolated trees to decorate with hanging nests.
The birds construct their nests in a basket shape with sticks, leaves, and vines. Since the male is almost twice the size of the females, only the mothers can enter the nests. The “alpha” male oversees the colony, which they strategically build away from any insect colonies.