Bug Garden opens at Wingham Wildlife Park near Canterbury, home to thousands of invertebrates

If the thought of visiting a place where there are 2,000 cockroaches does not sound appealing to you, then one of the county's wildlife parks could change your mind.

Wingham Wildlife Park near Canterbury opened its Bug Garden this summer, after the team worked on it from just before the first national lockdown, and it is home to ants, cockroaches, spiders, leeches and even the scarily named Assassin Bugs.

The Bug Garden at Wingham
The Bug Garden at Wingham

But don't let that put you off as there's a bug - or invertebrate - for everyone.

Curator Markus Wilder said: "I used to work with reptiles and frogs so anything like that is what I get most passionate about.

"This is the first time we have had such a big project for invertebrates. During lockdown we had Facebook updates and people seemed pretty excited about it. I even posted about a Pancake Slug baby and I thought no-one would be interested in that - but they were.

"Since we opened the reaction has been really good. There is a lot of interaction between kids and their parents. We have also got a really passionate team in there."

The numbers of creatures to see is into the tens of thousands. A recent census found more than 1,000 individuals in their two colonies of ants and 2,000 roaches alone (it is an official breeding centre for cockroaches).

The Assassin Bug
The Assassin Bug
The 'escape artist' medical leech at Wingham
The 'escape artist' medical leech at Wingham

But you can also see everything from stick insects to beetles and hermit crabs and crayfish to praying mantis.

And visitors won't just find real live bugs as, in a 'Honey I Shrunk the Kids' fashion, there are bespoke giant sculptures of some of the bugs making their home there to see, including the site's mascot, himself a crayfish.

The turnover of the species is high as, sadly, many of the creatures have short life spans, hence plenty of breeding programmes. Stick insects only live a couple of months, for example, and some praying mantis' live for under a year.

Markus said: "I have always wanted to work with invertebrates so this project is fantastic. Due to the number of species represented, what would have made the most sense was to have called it the invertebrate garden, but that’s not got the best ring to it!

"Our crayfish came to us from Bristol and are still very young. We will be working on a conservation project with Kentish crayfish in the future.

"We also have medical leeches - they are absolute escape artists," he said, ominously.

The Bug Garden at Wingham has some huge bug sculptures
The Bug Garden at Wingham has some huge bug sculptures
The crayfish mascot looks over the Bug Garden at Wingham
The crayfish mascot looks over the Bug Garden at Wingham

The habitat created in the Bug Garden has proved a draw for non-human visitors too.

"One of the biggest stag beetles I've ever seen was spotted on the site. They feed on rotten wood and as the garden is also filled with ideas like bug hotels, it must have been attracted by that."

Keeping the Bug Garden tidy at Wingham
Keeping the Bug Garden tidy at Wingham
The Bug Garden at Wingham
The Bug Garden at Wingham

To find out about visiting Wingham and seeing the Bug Garden, go to winghamwildlifepark.co.uk You can also find out more on the Facebook page here. Entry is £19 for adults and £16 for children aged two to 15.

For more suggestions of things to do with the kids visit www.mykentfamily.co.uk

Share this story

Helpful links

© KM Group 2021