Illinois Natural History Survey - University of Illinois

The Naturalist's Apprentice: Humans Aren't the Only Architects


Objective: to learn about a few of the structures (nests) animals build


Materials: multiple copies of Humans Aren't the Only Architects


Comments: Birds do it, mammals do it, fishes do it, reptiles do it, even insects do it. What are we talking about? Why, nestbuilding, of course. The encyclopedia defines a nest as "a place chosen or a structure built by an animal for shelter or concealment, usually for the reception of the eggs or young and as a home for the young during their early development." While this rather dry statement may be true, it falls far short of describing the remarkable diversity and ingenuity of animal architects. Nests range from simple depressions scooped out on the bottom of a stream by some fish to incredibly elaborate, woven structures produced by certain birds, such as orioles. Even insects get in the act. That bothersome paper structure under the eaves of your house is a paper wasp colonial nest in which hundreds of new wasps are produced each season.



1. Introduce the subject of nest building by animals with the material presented above and in Species Spotlight.


2. Distribute copies of Humans Aren't the Only Architects and have students match the organism in column 1 with the correct nest picture in column 2. Answers: A-J; B-I; C-F; D-G; E-H.


3. Have students try to name other animals that construct nests.



 Many animals make remarkable structures in which to live and to rear their young. Match the animal in column 1 with the correct nest it has built in column 2.


Michael Jeffords, Center for Economic Entomology


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