The Daddy of All Crawdaddies
Whether you call them crawdaddies, crawfish or crayfish, in New England these crustaceans are ruled into submission by one big daddy – the Rusty Crayfish, aka Orconectes rusticus.
There are about 390 different species of crayfish native to North America – about 75 percent of the world’s diversity. The center of crawdad diversity is in the southeast U.S., here in my home state of Vermont we have just seven species, three of them are introduced (and rumor has it last week another one was discovered that was also probably introduced). But the daddy of all introduced crawdaddies is the Rusty Crayfish, a serious troublemaker here in New England.
Rusties can be identified by their large claws with black bands on the tips, and dark, rusty spots on each side of their body. Native to the Ohio River basin and the states of Ohio and Kentucky, Rusty Crayfish continue to spread into many lakes and streams where they cause serious ecological problems. Just like native crayfish, they eat aquatic plants, but they eat about twice as much eventually reducing the diversity and density of the plants. These big daddies displace native crayfish, decrease aquatic invertebrate density and diversity of invertebrates and reduce some fish populations.
There appears to be higher concentrations of Rusties at public access areas for waterways. And it is widely believed that Rusties traveled to New England in bait buckets. Once they are in waterways it is impossible to remove them. The only way we might be able to control them is to eat them. A little Louisiana…er… I mean Vermont crawfish boil anyone?