Wildlife at Bodiam Castle

A view across the moat to Bodiam Castle with summer flags on the bridge

There is an abundance of wildlife around the castle come summer. From tiny ants in the great oaks, to ducks on the moat and carp below. Find out what makes our wildlife extra special. When you come to spot the castle's critters, you help us create more homes for wildlife here.

Go on a bug hunt and find our special ants

We have some highly unusual ants here at Bodiam, they live in one of the oak trees. Jet Black Ants (Lasius fuliginosus) are almost as big as Wood Ants and are a really shiny jet black as the name suggests.

What makes them unusual is that they start their nests in the nests of other ants rather like a cuckoo does. Eventually they take over completely although you can sometimes see workers of the hosts and the invaders working along side each other. As the colony grows the nest is built from bits of dead wood stuck together with saliva inside the tree which looks like a honeycomb.

The Jet Black ants even have a list of other insect species that only co-exist with them. Like many ant species they feed off dead insects and aphid honeydew. They also smell of citrus.  If you find them, please leave them in peace.

Jet Black ants, Bodiam Castle
Some jet black ants busy on a piece of oak at Bodiam Castle
Jet Black ants, Bodiam Castle

Find out what the buzz is all about

We have wild bees on the site. They have lived for many years high up in the walls of the buttery within the castle kitchen area.  We don’t know how big the nest is and as we can’t get at the honey, they live peacefully.

When you're in the kitchen area look up and you might see them, they're on the courtyard wall close to the three arches. They’re very docile even when we have the occasional swarm.  We monitor this closely so that our visitors do not need to be concerned.

We do have bee hives on the site for the other bees that visit the castle grounds.  The hives are maintained for us by Kencol Farm and the honey produced is sold in our shop.  Pay a visit to the gift shop and buy some honey that was made here, even if it wasn’t from the bees inside the castle.
Wild bees, Bodiam Castle
Wild bees around the stonework at Bodiam Castle
Wild bees, Bodiam Castle

Stop on the bridge and look into the moat

The fish that you'll see in the moat below you as you cross the bridge to the castle are carp. In medieval England, carp were a regular food source and bred specifically for that purpose by monks.  Ours are not descended from those fish but came instead from Richborough Power Station near Sandwich in Kent in 1996 when it closed down.
The monks used to breed the carp so they had the least scales, which is where the descriptions, mirror carp and leather carp come from.  By breeding the carp in this way, it helped to save time in the kitchens.
Carp for eating wouldn’t have been kept in the moat originally because all the garderobes emptied into it and so it is thought that they were kept in special ponds to the north west of the castle.  You can still see the dips in the grounds where these ponds were probably sited.  
You'll notice that the moment you tread on the bridge the fish will come to the surface and gape at you. It is sometimes thought that they are doing this as they need air, but this is not the case they’re begging, just like a dog might do at the table. There are plenty of nutrients in the muddy moat waters, even though it may not look like it, and so we ask visitors not to feed the fish.
Please also refrain from throwing the left-overs from your picnic into the water as although the fish will eat some of it, mostly it sinks to the bottom and congeles. The fish really do have plenty to eat.