Deer in Spring Landscape

Devil Crayfish
Cambarus diogenes


[Devil Crayfish, up close and showing the dwelling where the crayfish seeks shelter and spends time during inactive periods.]What do they look like?

Crayfish are crustaceans and are related to crabs and shrimps. They look like miniature lobsters. The devil crayfish is multicolored, brown to brownish red, green to blue, and 36-48 mm. in length. They breathe through gills located under their body.

Where are the found?

Crayfish are found primarily in freshwater habitats. The devil crayfish in Maryland is found in Anne Arundel, Baltimore, Calvert, Charles, Prince George's and St. Mary's counties. It is found in the Chesapeake Bay, Patapsco River, Patuxent River, and Wicomico River drainages. The devil crayfish lives in burrows with a cone shaped mud chimney at the entrance. Burrows can be up to three feet in length to reach water.

What do they eat?

Crayfish are scavengers and feed approximately 60% of the time on living and decaying aquatic vegetation. 40% of their diet includes aquatic worms, insects, snails, and dead animal matter.

What other kind of crayfish live in Maryland?

The devil crayfish is a native crayfish of Maryland. Eleven other crayfish species live in Maryland, seven of which are native species and four of which are introduced species. The native species are: Appalachian brook crayfish, spinycheek crayfish, Cambarus acuminatus, Cambarus dubius, Cambarus monongalensis, Fallicambarus fodiens, and Orconectes obscurus. The introduced species are: rusty crayfish, virile crayfish, white river crayfish and the red swamp crayfish.

I didn't know that!

The scientific name for the devil crayfish is Cambarus diogenes, and this crayfish is named from a Greek philosopher (Diogenes) who is said to have lived in a tub. Approximately 50% of the native crayfish species in North America are in need of conservation. Threats include habitat degradation and competition from introduced crayfish.


Drawing by: Edie Thompson