Ant architects: How do ants construct their nests?

Humans are not the only species on Earth capable of building extraordinary structures. The natural world is in fact full of ingenious animals that can achieve just as impressive feats of engineering.

Building behaviour is common in mammals, birds, insects and arachnids. Many animals learn to build by observation and even through communication. However, in some cases building is thought to be instinctive.

Animals will often construct their own habitats for shelter against potential predators and the outside elements. Many dwellings are also built for nesting purposes and to catch, store and even cultivate food.

Animal architecture can also be quite sophisticated; with many structures incorporating clever ventilation systems for temperature control, and even secure entry and exit points to keep unwanted visitors away.

Complex builds are often undertaken as a group, which helps speed up construction time. For example, an army of ants can move up to 50 tons of soil per year in just 2.6 square kilometres (one square mile)!

Ant architects

A single ant is capable of carrying up to 50 times its own weight, so working together as a colony means they’re able to accomplish impressive feats. In fact, within a week a large army of garden ants can construct an underground city big enough to house thousands of insects.

Established deep underground, ant nests are made up of multiple chambers and connecting tunnels. Each chamber has a different use; some store food while others are used as nurseries for the young and resting spaces for busy worker ants. You’ll find the queen ant in the central chamber where she will lay her eggs.

Porous turrets are also built above ground to ventilate the nest and maintain an even temperature inside.

Ant nest

Inside an ant nest

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Plus, take a look at:

Top 5 facts about ants 

How can ants lift so much?

How do ants breathe?