Nature – Crayfish

Crayfish are freshwater crustaceans resembling small lobsters. They go by a variety of different regional names such as crawfish, crawdads, mudbugs, and yabbies. Crayfish are found around the world with two families occupying The Northern Hemisphere and one family The Southern Hemisphere. There are 540 species of crayfish worldwide, with 400 of these being found in North America alone. The southeastern United States has the richest diversity of crayfish with over 330 species. Crayfish are mostly found in brooks and streams but also occur in lakes, marshes, swamps, and ponds. They come in a variety of colors, shapes, and sizes. Some species are very colorful, sporting red, blue, or yellow coloration or a combination of these, but most are a shade of brown. Others, such as the cave crayfishes, are colorless (white) and blind. Most crayfish are 2 to 6 inches in length, but a few get quite large, such as the Tasmanian giant freshwater crayfish which can reach a length of 31 inches and weigh up to 11 pounds, making it the largest freshwater invertebrate in the world. Unlike most species of crayfish which only live 2 to 3 years, the Tasmanian giant can live up to 40 years.

Some crayfish species live in holes in the ground in stream banks and moist soils, burrowing down as deep as five feet until they reach water and coming out at night to search for food on the surface. Their burrows are often marked with chimneys made of mud balls they bring to the surface while digging. There are three categories of burrowing crayfish: primary burrowers, which spend most of their lives in and around their burrows; secondary burrowers, which spend much of their lives in burrows but will frequent surface waters during wet periods, and tertiary burrowers, which generally live in surface waters but will retreat into simple burrows for reproduction and to avoid desiccation and freezing.

Crayfish are mainly nocturnal, hiding under rocks and debris during the day and coming out at night to feed. They are an important link in the aquatic food chain, being fed upon by a multitude of other animals including fish, birds, reptiles, amphibians, and mammals. Being omnivores, they feed on a variety of plants and animals and play an important role as scavengers, promoting decomposition and recycling. Crayfish sport a pair of chelipeds (pincers) for capturing food and for defense, and should they lose one to a predator, they are able to grow it back. They also are able to escape their enemies by back flipping their fan-shaped tail which propels them backward, flinging a cloud of mud at would-be predators.

In His infinite plan, God appointed part of the animal kingdom to act as scavengers like the crayfish. His plan, however, was not for us to be scavengers, physically or spiritually. “Those who live upon the husks of others’ failings and deficiencies, and who gather to themselves the unwholesome miasma of their neighbors’ neglects and shortcomings, making themselves church scavengers, are no advantage to the society of which they form a part, but are an actual burden to the community upon which they inflict themselves.

“The church is in need, not of burdens, but of earnest workers; not of faultfinders, but of builders in Zion. Missionaries are really needed at the great heart of the work—men who will keep the fort, who will be true as steel to preserve the honor of those whom God has placed at the head of His work, and who will do their utmost to sustain the cause in all its departments, even at the sacrifice of their own interests and lives, if need be.” Testimonies, vol. 4, 194.

David Arbour writes from his home in De Queen, Arkansas. He may be contacted by e-mail at: