Species Groups

Learn about the following species groups (including their most common members, as well as purchasing, storage and cooking information), or select a specific species from the species list on the right.

More Species Groups 

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Balmain Bug
Ibacus peronii (Eastern Balmain Bug)
 
Moreton Bay Bug
Thenus orientalis (Sandbug)
Thenus indicus (Mudbug)
 
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Balmain Bug

Ibacus peronii (Eastern Balmain Bug)
Other names:

Bug, flapjack, flying saucer, sand lobster, shovelnose lobster, shovel-nosed lobster, slipper lobster, southern baylobster, southern bay lobster, squagga, squat lobster.

Family:

Scyllaridae (shovel-nosed/slipper lobsters).

Description:

A marine crustacean with a reddish brown shell, broad flat head with eyes close to the centre, short narrower tail and 5 pairs of small legs. Currently only available wild-caught, though aquaculture research is underway. Found mainly on the continental slope, from 15m-650m, most commonly less than 150m, south from Fraser Island in Queensland to Geraldton in WA (with a pocket further north on the North West Shelf from Port Hedland to Broome) though caught primarily off the NSW coast as bycatch of fish and Prawn trawling (and specifically targeted in some areas). They often bury themselves in sand or mud during the day and become active after dark. Ibacus peronii is the largest and commercially most important member of the seven Ibacus species found in Australia (others include Ibacus alticrenatus and Ibacus chacei).

Season:

Available year round peaking in January and February.

Size and Weight:

Average 120g, but commonly 80-200g with 10-14cm wide head.

Price:

Medium-high priced, more expensive in areas where they are caught as they are familiar and popular.

Relations:

Moreton Bay Bugs, Rocklobsters, Slipper Lobsters. Most easily distinguished from similar species by the central position of the eyes; Moreton Bay Bugs’ eyes are located on the outer edges of the shell and those of Slipper Lobsters are also closer to the edges than to the centre. Moreton Bay Bugs have a narrower body.

To Buy:

Sold whole, sometimes live (and frozen whole, tails and as meat). Look for brightly coloured, firm, intact, lustrous shells, without any discolouration, particularly at joints, and a pleasant fresh sea smell.

To Store:

Wrap whole Bugs or meat in plastic wrap or place in an airtight container. Refrigerate for up to 3 days or freeze for up to 3 months below -18ºC.

To Cook:

Average yield is 30%, the edible flesh is only in the tail and larger Bugs have a lower yield due to their head size. Has a medium-strong flavour (more ‘fishy’ than Moreton Bay Bugs), low oiliness and dry, firm flesh. To remove meat from shells, either split Bug lengthwise, or, to keep meat in one piece, remove head, turn tail over and cut down either side of the tail using kitchen scissors, peel underside of tail back and remove meat. Do not recook cooked Bugs, eat cold in salads or with a dipping sauce. The most humane, and easiest, method of killing any crustacean is to chill it in the freezer for about 45 minutes until it becomes insensible (but not long enough to freeze it). Once chilled, it should be killed promptly by splitting in half or dropping into rapidly boiling water. See www.rspca.org.au for more details.

Cooking Methods:

Steam, poach, deep-fry, pan-fry, stir-fry, grill, barbecue. Excellent cold as part of a seafood platter. To BBQ, cut in half lengthwise and cook in the shell. The firm flesh holds together well in soups, curries and casseroles and can be cubed for kebabs.

Goes well with:

Citrus, fresh herbs (dill, basil, chervil, parsley, French tarragon), garlic, ginger, green vegetables (asparagus, snowpeas, baby beans), mayonnaise, vinaigrette.

Alternatives:

Marron, Moreton Bay Bugs, Redclaw, Prawns, Yabby.

Imports:

Various Ibacus species are occasionally imported from Asia, usually as frozen tails.

Recipes:

Balmain Bug Salad with Rocket, Asparagus & Saffron Aïoli >
Pappardelle with Balmain Bugs >
Salad of Moreton Bay Bugs & Brown Rice with Sesame Dressing >