Ants (and bees and wasps) use their antennae to taste their food before they eat it.

Bug Homes

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.

Plant Galls

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.

Termite Mounds

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.

Paper Nests

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 brood.

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 layers.

 Termites  Wasps
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