Beautiful Homes Built By Animal Architects
Animals build incredible homes, nests and structures. Here are some amazing architectural structures created by animals and insects!Nature
For the most part, animals aren’t too fussy about the appearance of their homes. Most are perfectly simple, designed to provide warmth and shelter for creatures and their young; not to win any awards for appearances.
But not every animal takes homemaking so lightly. Some animals build homes that rival and inspire many of mankind’s greatest architectural achievements. From vibrant solo efforts to incredible displays of teamwork and ingenuity, here are some of nature’s greatest architects.
As one of the largest rodents in the world, beavers usually weigh between 45 and 60 lbs, about 20 to 30 kilograms. Like other rodents, their teeth never stop growing, which they counteract by constantly gnawing on wood! The other reason, of course, is that they build dams from that wood.
Have you ever noticed how beaver teeth tend to be orange? This isn’t poor dental hygiene. It’s because their bodies allocate high amounts of iron to their tooth enamel, which makes them incredibly strong while also coloring them.
As for the construction of dams, the long piles of trunks and sticks block watercourses and create ponds, allowing beavers protection from predators and ensuring year-round access to the plants they like to snack on. They live in lodges within their dams; little wooden halls, with hidden, underwater access accommodate whole beaver families!
Beavers can be so ecologically prolific that they create new flood plains and change landscapes entirely, working year after year to maintain and build on their dams; hence the saying "busy as a beaver". One colony of beavers in Alberta, Canada, was so busy in fact that they constructed the largest dam ever seen, stretching for nearly 3,000 ft!
Moving away from cute and furry into creepy and crawly, it’s time for termites. There are a few different kinds of termites that could easily earn their architecture degree. Compass termites, endemic to northern Australia build large, wedge-shaped nests which are usually oriented north to south. Their orientation helps them regulate heat, taking direct sunlight onto their wide eastern and western sides in the morning and afternoon.
Their wedge-like shape means that when the sun is hottest, around midday, less heat is absorbed, preventing overheating. The mounds can sometimes be found in eerie, graveyard-like groupings.
Their cousins, the cathedral termites also from northern Australia, create even larger structures. Their enormous, cathedral-like homes often reach more than 15 feet high. These structures are striking, as they’re made of Australia’s red earth as well as chewed wood, saliva, and dung.
And what’s above ground is just the start. Termite colonies extend for several acres underground, and some termite colonies even intentionally cultivate their own fungi gardens! Impressive as their homes are, termite queens aren’t going to be winning any beauty pageants soon; it's best they stay holed up in their fancy castles, if you ask me.
Baya Weaver Nest
Like many birds, the Baya Weaver nests high in the branches of thorny trees throughout India and Southeast Asia. During monsoon season, when they breed, the weavers gather in groups of 20-30 to construct their intricate neighborhoods together near sources of food, water, and building materials.
They are woven using strips of acacia and palm leaves, and the pendulous nests include a central nesting chamber and a long entrance tunnel. When the nest is partially complete, the male bird hangs from it to display and attract a female. The more impressive his semi-finished nest is, the more likely he is to find a mate!
And he deserves it, too. The average Baya Weaver nest takes about 500 material-gathering trips to complete, and the weaving of the nest requires a huge amount of skill as well as an exceptionally strong beak. Luckily, this amazing avian has both.
Red Ovenbird Nest
These feathery South American architects get their name because their nests look exactly as their name suggests! The structures, composed of thousands of mud pellets, resemble the shape and color of rudimentary clay ovens and are often stacked one on top of another.
Their semi-closed structure helps protect the ovenbirds from predators, and once the breeding pair who originally inhabited the nest are gone other birds of different species often take over the safe and comfortable real estate.
The nests of ovenbirds consist of thick, curved walls which spiral towards a central chamber. The innermost chamber, where the eggs are laid by the female, is protected by a wall with a small opening, just wide enough for the ovenbirds to fit through. Few predators can squeeze through this tight crevasse, so mama bird can look after her eggs and her chicks in peace.
Sociable Weaver Nests
These African birds, who live in the Namib and Kalahari Deserts, build huge communal nests; some of the largest in the world. The proximity to one another, as well as the size of these nests, which can weigh up to a ton, help protect the birds from the wildly fluctuating temperatures in the desert.
The nests are essentially avian apartment blocks, containing individual nesting chambers for 100 or more breeding pairs of Weavers. Each pair looks after its own home, including the entrance tunnel, and as more pairs turn up, they add to the overall structure.
Unlike most weaver birds, Sociable Weavers do something a little more like thatching than weaving. As a result, their massive nests look very much like huts, with sloped roofs to help rain runoff.
In addition to occasionally building their homes on electricity poles and causing power outages for nearby humans, Sociable Weavers cause trouble for their predators too. With the tactical placement of sharp sticks on the exteriors of their nests, they offer a painful surprise to any unwanted guests. Impaling the local reptiles doesn’t sound so friendly after all!
Vogelkop Bowerbird Nest
Native to New Guinea, the Bowerbird doesn’t display in the same way as most of its avian brothers and sisters. Instead of a dance or a song, this chirpy little architect decorates its bower, which is like a cave of sticks on the ground, with flowers, berries, and other colorful odds and ends.
This isn’t a nest, as young aren’t raised here, it’s more an art exhibition for prospective mates. These small, brown birds don’t have the ornamental plumage of some bowerbirds, so they have to make up for it. They constantly update their collections of pretty things and are often on a mission to outdo their neighbors.
Some even go to the length of stealing the best stuff from a nearby bower when a back is turned! With their collections sometimes stretching to include human litter, like colorful plastics, these fascinating birds blur the line between architect and artist.
Indian Harvester Ants Nest Architecture
Back to the world of bugs. This time, ants. Indian Harvesters are ants who love a good maze! These six-legged creatures build up mounds of earth in concentric circles around their nest entrances, with openings in the tubular walls making the whole structure look, from above, like the innards of a labyrinth.
It is thought that the walls are built to keep out predators and excess water. This makes sense, as the entrances they protect are large holes in the dry Indian mud and without this protection, a much larger bug or rodent, or excess rainwater, might find its way down into the ant city that’s hidden below the surface of these slopes in Maharashtra.
These ants get their name because they harvest seeds from local grasses, leaving husks outside their dwellings, like offerings outside the walls of an early human city.
Weaver Ants and Leaf Rolling Weevils
Both the Australian Weaver Ant and the Leaf Rolling Weevil make their homes in leaves. The Weevil, native to Florida, snips leaves down the middle with their pincers and rolls them around itself, constructing a burrito-like dwelling. The female Leaf Rolling Weevil will leave an egg or two inside and stick around to guard them from predators.
Weaver Ants also live in trees, but like most other species of ant they gather in colonies divided into ants who build, and ants who defend the colony. They build their nests by bending and weaving leaves and sticking them together with spit.
Due to the significant size difference, a number of ants have to collaborate on the bending and sticking of each leaf. And, like many of our animal architects, these guys work hard. Nests can range from a single leaf to connected leaves up to a foot and a half in length.
The strength and dexterity displayed by both of these creatures more than earn them a prestigious spot on the list!
Desert Sand Scorpion
These arachnids are found in North American deserts, like the Sonoran Desert in Arizona, where temperatures can reach up to 120 Fahrenheit during the day. Desert Scorpions are sand-colored to help evade predators and sneak up on prey, and their diet consists of insects, spiders, and occasionally small lizards and rodents.
But the most impressive thing about them is, of course, their homes. Once a suitable spot is chosen, a Desert Sand Scorpion corkscrews its way into the earth, pushing unwanted sand out of its spiral lair. By digging their spiral homes into the sand, they provide themselves with a winding tunnel through which they can confuse and evade predators.
The unique shape also allows hot air to escape at the entrance, easing some of the overwhelming heat of the desert like an arachnid AC unit. The decision to live underground also helps this scorpion source and retain moisture, as a deep, spiral burrow is one of the most effective ways of finding water in the arid lands of the Sonora.
One of Earth’s most important species, honey bees make their nests out of wax, which they secrete from specialized glands. With this, their amazing instincts guide the production of perfectly hexagonal honeycomb cells, some of which are left open to house their young, while some are closed up to store pollen and honey. Beeswax, amazingly, is visco-elastic, and though not visible to the naked eye it is always slowly flowing.
Paper Wasp Nests
Though wasps are perceived as the evil relative of bees, that doesn’t make them any less capable architects. Paper wasps are particularly talented, as they chew leaves and bark with their mandibles, creating a kind of paper they stick together with their gluey saliva. Their nests have a remarkable cardboard-like appearance, and they’ve even been known to use colored paper as a construction material when available.
Pufferfish Crop Circles
For a long time, these ornate circular patterns at the bottom of the ocean were a mystery for divers who encountered them. It turns out, though, that these crop circles of the sea are built by male Japanese pufferfish to attract the females. The lovestruck ladies then lay their eggs in the sediment in the center of these mathematically intricate designs.
Spongilla Fly Cocoon
Spongeflies are a group of net-winged insects that may be some of the natural world’s most impressive architects. The homes their larvae build are small and personal cocoons. The multilayered constructions consist of a beautiful outer net and a tough inner covering. The larvae, grabbing a solid surface, build a net-like structure from the semi-liquid silk they produce, which hardens in contact with the air.
This pattern is passed down, generation to generation; an inherited artistry that continues every time the silk dries in those beautiful domes around the larvae. Watching these little grubs is like watching a 3-D printer at work!
An engineer as well as an architect, the larva inserts cross-fibers like supporting columns to attach the domed net to the more conventional hard cocoon it builds inside.
Urodid Moth Cocoon
Amazingly, the Urodid Moth’s young have developed a very similar cocoon-building process. These cocoons, though, are built hanging from the underside of leaves. The Urodid Moth is a rainforest dweller, and the double-whammy of the leaf roof and the twisted net of a cocoon keep the rain off of the developing caterpillar within.
I hope you were amazed by these beautiful homes built by genius animal architects. Thanks for reading!