They have more meat on them than many other crayfish. The tail meat is 15 to 20% of the body weight. The claws are particularly desirable if the yabby is a larger one.
They are found in the southern half of Australia. The Cherax destructor species are mostly in the eastern and central parts of southern Australia, while the Cherax albidus species tends to be found in Western Australia.
Yabbies live in fresh water, though they can survive in salt water for up to 48 hours.
They can live in poor quality water. In times of drought, they will burrow down into wet mud to stay alive. They can burrow into dams, weakening the walls (thus part of their name “destructor.”.)
They prefer muddier waters, which give them more protection from predators.
Though they are hardy, and can survive a temperature range between 34 F and 95 F (1 C and 35 C), they prefer their water to be between 68 F and 77 F) 20 C and 25 C. Below 61 F (16 C), they become dormant. Above 95 F (35 C), they will start to perish.
Yabbies grow to be up to 6 inches (16 cm) long. They have two large claws at the front, and a smooth hard outer shell. The shell colour varies from black, yellow, brown, red, blue, but is most often a dull olive or pale brown. They have large eyes but poor eyesight, and use their antennae as sensors. They have no internal skeleton.
They moult their shells as they grow larger. When sporting a new shell, they will absorb water making them seem larger than they really are. The new shell then hardens over this expanded body, and the water leaves their body. Older Yabbies moult once or twice a year.
Yabbies can start reproducing when 2 ¼ to 4 inches (6 to 10 cm) long, about 12 months of age. The breeding season is between October and January. The eggs will hatch in 19 to 40 days, depending on how cold or warm the water is. The female folds her tail under her body to hold and protect the eggs there while they are incubating. Once hatched, the young larvae still stay under the tail for a few weeks.
Yabbies are omnivorous, and eat detritus, feeding at night. They will often even eat their own discarded shell after moulting; they may even eat their friends who have just moulted and have soft shells.
Marketable size is reached when they are about 6 months old, at which point they will weigh about 1 oz (30g.) Jumbo ones are over 3 oz (100g.)
They are increasingly farmed now. They can be fished for with a piece of meat tied onto a string, or caught with nets. As nets may damage them, many harvesters prefer using baited traps. After capture, they are washed and kept in a cool, moist place, then placed in purging tanks for at least 48 hours during which time they are not fed. The purpose of this is to allow them to pass what is inside them already from eating. They can have a muddy taste if not allowed to purge.
They are shipped packed live in layers of foam. They will stay alive for 10 days if kept cool and moist.
Though they are usually sold live, you can also buy marinated pieces of tail and claws in bottles.
Cambinata Yabbies are a brand name of Yabbies produced by the “Cambinata Yabbies” company in Kukerin, Australia (a few hours south-east of Perth.) The business was founded in 1991 by Mary and Michael Nenke.
Boil Yabbies in salted water for a few minutes, or cook larger ones in any way that you would a lobster e.g. steaming etc.
They turn orange when cooked.
Yabbies are native to Australia.
The word “Yabby” comes from the Wemba Aboriginal word, “yabij.”
Withnall, Fiona. Biology of Yabbies (Cherax destructor). State of Victoria, Department of Natural Resources and Environment 2002. AS004. ISSN 1441-1199. June 2000.