I've been playing with the idea of living nests for insects for a while now to help populate my worlds. The idea is that they don't build a static nest out of wood pulp and other material but have a literal living and breathing creature that they call their home in a symbiotic relationship. This isn't a simple cooperation where one creature allows the nest to be build on top of him for mutual protection, this is a full-blown "we share DNA" type of cooperation.
There's several things that I would like to know. Ignoring any evolutionary processes to get there, there's things like shape, who would ideally nourish who + how they do that, procreation, keeping the hive together and more.
This question focuses on the optimal shape, based on existing creatures right now. Such a cooperation would have some advantages and disadvantages. Having a warm nest that can find food and protect part of the hive during winter is great and can give a big advantage over hibernating queens that need to find a spot and build up their numbers. On the other hand having to help sustain this living and breathing hive is going to take a lot more work and the creature itself needs the space for the hive to function.
With rambling half-fluff out of the way, for an answer I'm looking for the following factors:
- Space for most of the insects to reside for a short period of several days to survive extended travel or harsh weather.
- Space for a small portion of the insects to live for a long period of several months during winter, only to be temporarily roused for short forages when the hive finds something (the remainder could simply die naturally or be absorbed for food).
- The hive is based off a currently living creature to minimize the amount of guesswork necessary. In order to make the choice of creature less subjective: More space for the insects rules.
- The insects offer an obvious advantage in the finding of food for the creature chosen. For clarification these insects can fly (walking insects would be interesting but change the answer).
- The choice of the insects and creature being herbivores, omnivores or carnivores is yours.
- The chosen creature offers an obvious advantage in the finding of food and survival of the insects it supports.