Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Land Lobster?

My garden is doing splendidly this summer, despite a lack of sun. I have harvested enough Romaine lettuce for two huge, tasty bowls of salad for our family of three, I have given some away to two neighbors, and I still have some left to harvest. I have already planted more!
The squash plants are taking off!

The squash, pole beans, bush beans, and nasturtiums are doing great, too. I still have a few radishes left. All the amendments we added when we built the beds seem to be paying off. The weather has been hot and getting drier, but the soil still seems moist and the plants don't seem very stressed.

A recent mystery was a hole near one of my asparagus beds. I was afraid it was the entrance to a rabbit burrow. Something had been nibbling on my young pepper plants recently.

Don tried plugging up the hole to the burrow, but something kept digging up a new entrance every night. He finally got tired of it and dug the area up, but there was no sign of rabbits or a rabbit den.
Don's Hole

The mystery was solved this morning, when he saw what looked like a small lobster in the bottom of the hole. He killed it and put what was left of its corpse in a pail.
Yikes! Looks like a small lobster, but what is it?

After a little research, we determined that it was a crayfish. I always thought they lived in water, but there are some species that live on land, too, including the swampy areas of nearby North Carolina. This one apparently failed its geography lesson, or land crayfish are more widespread than people think. It's hard to find information about them, even online. If anyone knows of any good sources, please leave us a message below.

*** Update on 6/14/12: I have received a few emails about the crayfish from crayfish- and crawdad-lovers all over the country. Apparently, these "land lobsters" are common in other parts of the U.S., and I am told they are good cooking and eating if you are patient about picking out the meat.

I am a vegetarian, so I'll pass on that.

They are generally harmless except for the annoying holes from their tunnels around the lawn and garden. They actually tunnel down to the water table. They come out only at night and are opportunistic feeders and eat decaying vegetation and occasionally worms and bugs. In some areas they are called prairie crayfish. According to one website the latter are red and live in the grasslands of Missouri, so I doubt ours was that species. Texas prairie crawdads apparently include some rare species. If I learn any more about the species that live in Virginia, I'll post an update. I have also just learned that chickens love them and will gobble them up if given the chance. Since I want my own chickens, this is useful information. One reader says they will eat plants in nearby gardens, but I am not sure they can climb. The plants damaged in my nearby garden were in a raised bed, so I won't be quick to blame the crayfish. (The same reader later assured me that they can climb).

In the meantime I have requested of Don that if he finds any more of these interesting and colorful critters, he leave them be.

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