Nature

The Most Monumental Architecture That Animals Build You Need to See

By Robin Mei - November 12, 2016
Credits: Image: Kawase et al

Mound-Building Termites

Mound-building termites absolutely deserve the title of being true masters of construction.

The structures these tiny beings can make are simply unbelievable. They can be over nine meters (30 feet) high and have a diameter of almost 30.5 meters (100 feet).

When built relatively close to one another they become true termite cities that can be found in well-drained areas of Australia, South America and Africa.

But what makes these mud skyscrapers and their builders even more fascinating is the fact that these structures are actually empty while the builders live under them deep into the mud!

So, why do they go through all that trouble of making such huge structures when they are not using them?

Well, no one really knows, but some of the latest theories suggest that these mud formations help regulate the microclimate of the area where the termites live.

Source: Why termites build such enormous skyscrapers

Leafcutter Bee

Credits: Image: Rob Cruickshank / Flickr

Leafcutter bees are a fascinating example of skilled architects in the animal kingdom.

These amazing little creatures have a pretty unusual way of nesting. They are solitary types, so each queen leafcutter bee builds her own nest using any leaves they can cut, carry and wrap into a cigar-looking structure.

They often use existing holes, gaps, rocky walls and other suitable spaces which can be transformed into comfortable little bee homes lined with leaves.

After they roll the leaves up to suit their building plans, they make cells for the eggs and fill them with nectar and pollen. And then they are ready to lay their eggs.

Source: Leafcutter Bees: The mystery behind circular holes in leaves

Caddisfly

Credits: Image: (Top) Gailhampshire (Bottom) Heatherkh

The caddisfly is a moth-like insect whose building skills are somewhere between masonry and haute couture. They are best known for the amazing cocoons they make when their larvae are ready to enter the next transformative cycle.

Since the caddisfly larvae live in springs, rivers, lakes and even ponds, they usually collect all sorts of small items like small stones and pieces of shells, bonding them with silk secreted from their mouths to create absolutely unique mosaic-like cocoons.

The caddisfly’s natural creativity has inspired some artists to include them into their own artistic process, cultivating caddisflies and using their cocoons in their own work.

Source: The Ornate Protective Cases of Caddisfly Larvae

Trap Door Spider

Not all of the animal builders’ work can be easily spotted.

Some of it is buried underground, but that doesn’t make them nor their primitive architectural stylings any less fascinating.

The trapdoor spider, with its underground tunnels, is one of the best examples of subterrene masonry.

The trapdoor spider is a nocturnal creature that spends most of its time hidden in the soil. Unlike the majority of other spiders, this one doesn’t shoot web but builds traps to catch its prey.

Trapdoor spiders dig holes in the ground usually about 11 inches long and up to 2 inches wide and covers them with a lid made of plants or dirt. Then it crawls into it and waits for its pray behind “the door.”

Source: Trapdoor Spider

Pufferfish

Credits: Image: Kawase et al

The Pufferfish, or blowfish, is named for its ability to inflate its body multiple times its original size and into a bigger ball shape to scare off predators. But that’s not the only amazing thing this fish does.

Recent discoveries show that pufferfish is also an astonishing builder. Unfortunately, the structures made by this tiny fish are of short-term and can be rarely seen.

It turns out that male Japanese pufferfish use a rather unique strategy to grab the attention of their females.

They build magnificent sculptures on the seabed using their fins to draw, or better said, dig up circular 3D artistic displays as the perfect love nests.

Source: Why do pufferfish build sandcastles?

Sociable Weaver

Credits: Image: (Top) Sharp Photography (Bottom) Flickr / Rui Ornelas

Sociable weavers are an incredible bird species native to Southern Africa with a very unusual lifestyle.

Unlike many other birds who prefer the privacy of their isolated nests, sociable weavers build enormous permanent nests often shared by hundreds of little birds.

The weavers use all sorts of sticks and grass to build these grand structures divided into smaller chambers for each bird family who lives there.

Plus, they make sure to protect their homes from predators in a rather fierce manner.

Weavers do this by embedding sharp branches and spikes of straw on the entrance of the tunnel that leads to their cozy little “apartments,” often used for over a hundred years.

Source: Sociable Weaver

Satin Bowerbird

Credits: Image: (Top) Joseph C Boone

Satin bowerbirds are incredibly beautiful backyard birds native to eastern Australia.

They got the name from their unusual habit of building lovely bowers which they use first for courting and then for nesting, but only if female birds find them attractive enough.

That means building these unique love gardens and nests is a male job in the satin bowerbirds’ world.

The male satin bowerbird takes its job very seriously and spends a lot of time making and decorating their little pieces of art.

They usually start with forming two loose bundles of sticks that look like parallel walls or a fence, and then they try to enhance it.

They collect blue flowers, straws and other small blueish objects they can find to embellish their bowers.

Source: Satin Bowerbird

Green Ants

Credits: Image: (Top) Caters News (Bottom) Bernard Dupont

Usually found in northern Australia, the weaver ant, or green ant, looks to the trees to build its nest. These ants are known for their aggressive defense mechanism of spraying anything that gets close to its nest with acid secreted from its abdomen.

Weaver ants build their nests by working together as a team, with an initial wave of the ants heading out to collect leaves to use as a base.

The next step involves more of the colony coming along carrying larvae that produce silk to tie the leaves together, all while other ants hold these leaves in place.

For life outside the nest, weaver ants also have the engineering ability to construct living bridges to travel between tree branches, with hundreds binding together to allow other ants to safely walk across.

Source: Green Tree Ants

Wasps

Credits: Image: Alvesgaspar

Not all the wasps build nests, but the ones that do make them spectacularly beautiful.

These wasps are known as social wasps and they make their nests from chewed plant pulp mixed with their saliva. They are not especially picky where they construct their nests, for as long as the location is dry and safe.

Some wasps like to use hollow trees or rocks, while others find human-made structures much more appealing to set their homes. Once they initially settle somewhere, they tend to stay there and keep growing the nests bigger and bigger.

One of the largest ever found measured an amazing 2.75 cubic meters (97 cubic feet), discovered in Southland, New Zealand.

Sources: Why do wasps build nests?2.75 cubic meter wasp nest found in Southland

Beavers

Credits: Image: (Bottom) Lars Falkdalen Lindahl

Probably the most famous builders of all the species in the animal kingdom is the beaver.

They are known for their dams which can be found blockading rivers and streams across North America. These predominantly wooden structures help the beaver avoid predators, but at the same make their fishing much more efficient.

The average beaver dam is up to 100 meters long (330 feet), but there are some outstanding examples that far exceed this size.

The biggest one, located in Canada’s Wood Buffalo National Park, is almost 914 meters long (3000 feet) and can be seen from space! This dam is also the most massive animal-built structure on the entire planet.

Source: The 7 Most Impressive Examples of Animal Architecture