Bugs are able to build amazing structures, many of which surpass human
technology in their complexity. Honeybees produce wax and construct honeycombs,
caterpillars and spiders weave with silk, beetles tunnel into wood and ants
create huge underground cities.
Many young plant-dwelling insects have their homes made for them by the plant
they are living on! The insect feeds on the plant, producing special chemicals
in its saliva, droppings and body secretions. These chemicals cause the plant
cells to multiply and swell. Eventually the swelling cells, called galls,
completely surround the insect.
When it has finished growing, the insect emerges from its safe haven through an
excavated tunnel. Wasps, flies, beetles and moth caterpillars are just some of
the insects that can create galls.
In many parts of Australia, termite mounds dominate the landscape. They are
among the most amazing feats of insect engineering. Termites mix together mud
and saliva which hardens to form a cement-like substance. They use this
substance to build mounds up to six metres in height. A single mound can take
over 50 years to complete and can contain up to several million residents.
The inside of a termite mound is just as amazing. Multiple chambers contain
indoor gardens, nurseries and the queen’s special chamber. Most of the termite
nest is actually underground, where a network of tubes and cavities can be up
to 10 metres deep.
The underground tunnels are the basis of an effective air-conditioning system.
Warm air from inside the mound rises through the tunnels and escapes out of
holes at the top. Fresh air is drawn back in and cooled in the underground
chambers before being directed to the main living areas.
Female wasps collect plant fibre to make paper for their nests. They chew the
plant fibre and mix it with saliva to make a series of little paper cells to
house their eggs. Some even incorporate bits of sand for extra strength. They
then build a series of paper envelopes that enclose the nest and protect their
The paper envelopes are laid down in layers with air spaces between them,
insulating the nest from the weather outside. The wasps are able to accurately
control the temperature and humidity within the nest by adding or removing the