A Comprehensive Guide To Non Edible Crabs

Crabs that are not safe or suitable for human consumption are known as non edible crabs. These crabs may contain toxins, have very little meat, taste extremely bad, or it may be illegal to catch them depending on where you live.

If you’re short on time, here’s a quick answer to your question: Common examples of non edible crabs include hermit crabs, horseshoe crabs, hairy crab spiders, and crab lice. Most non edible crabs are too small to extract much meat from or contain toxins that make them unsafe to eat.

In this comprehensive guide, we will cover various types of non edible crabs, discuss reasons why they are not eaten, provide identification tips, explain where they can be found, and more.

Types of Non Edible Crabs

Hermit Crabs

One of the most well-known types of non edible crabs is the hermit crab. These unique creatures are not actually true crabs, but belong to the crustacean family. Hermit crabs are known for their habit of using empty seashells as a protective home, which they carry on their backs.

They can be found in various sizes and colors, ranging from tiny ones that can fit in the palm of your hand to larger ones with vibrant shells. While they may not be suitable for consumption, hermit crabs make fascinating pets and are often kept in aquariums.

Horseshoe Crabs

Horseshoe crabs are another intriguing type of non edible crab. Despite their name, these creatures are not crabs at all, but are more closely related to spiders and scorpions. Horseshoe crabs have a hard exoskeleton and a distinctive horseshoe-shaped body.

They are often found in shallow coastal waters and are known for their incredible resilience, having remained virtually unchanged for millions of years. While they are not consumed as food, horseshoe crabs play an important ecological role, particularly in the medical field where their unique blue blood is used to test for bacterial contamination in drugs and medical devices.

Hairy Crab Spiders

Hairy crab spiders, also known as the family Thomisidae, are a group of non edible crabs that are known for their unique hunting techniques. These spiders do not build webs to catch their prey, but instead rely on their excellent camouflage and stealthy movements.

Hairy crab spiders can be found in various colors and patterns, allowing them to blend seamlessly into their surroundings. They are often found in gardens and fields, where they patiently wait for insects to come within striking distance.

While they may not be suitable for consumption, hairy crab spiders are fascinating to observe and play an important role in controlling pest populations.

Crab Lice

Crab lice, also known as pubic lice, are a type of parasitic insect that infests the human pubic hair. These tiny creatures resemble crabs, hence their name, and are transmitted through close personal contact.

While crab lice are not harmful in terms of disease transmission, they can cause intense itching and discomfort. It is important to seek medical treatment to effectively eliminate these lice. Websites such as CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) provide valuable information on prevention and treatment of crab lice infestations.

Reasons Crabs May Be Considered Non Edible

1. Contain Toxins

One of the main reasons why some crabs are considered non edible is because they contain toxins that can be harmful to humans. Certain species of crabs, such as the puffer crabs, are known to carry toxins like tetrodotoxin, which can cause paralysis and even death if consumed.

These toxins are naturally found in their bodies as a defense mechanism against predators. It is important to be aware of the potential risks associated with consuming crabs that contain toxins, and it is recommended to avoid eating them altogether.

2. Too Small to Extract Significant Meat

Some crabs, especially smaller species, may not have enough meat to make them worth eating. These crabs are often caught and used for other purposes, such as bait in fishing or as decorative items. While they may be interesting to observe, their small size makes it impractical to extract a significant amount of meat, which is why they are considered non edible in the culinary world.

3. Unpleasant Taste

Another reason why some crabs are not considered edible is due to their unpleasant taste. While taste can be subjective and vary from person to person, there are certain species of crabs that are known for having a strong and overpowering flavor that may not be appealing to everyone.

These crabs are often avoided by chefs and seafood enthusiasts who prefer more mild and delicate flavors.

4. Conservation Status

Some crabs are considered non edible due to their conservation status. Certain species of crabs may be listed as endangered or threatened, which means they are protected by law and cannot be harvested or consumed.

This is done to ensure the preservation of their populations and to prevent their extinction. It is important to respect these conservation efforts and refrain from consuming crabs that are protected.

5. Difficult to Catch or Farm

Lastly, certain crabs may be considered non edible because they are difficult to catch or farm. These crabs may inhabit remote or inaccessible areas, making it challenging for fishermen to harvest them.

Additionally, some species of crabs have specific habitat requirements and cannot be successfully bred in captivity. Due to these factors, it is not economically viable or sustainable to harvest or farm these crabs for human consumption.

Identifying Non Edible Crabs

Distinctive Features

Non edible crabs can be easily distinguished from edible crabs by their distinctive features. One of the most noticeable characteristics is the shape of their shell, which tends to be rough and spiky. These crabs also often have larger claws with sharp, pointed tips.

Additionally, non edible crabs may have vibrant colors and patterns on their shells, serving as a warning sign to predators. Some non edible crabs even have unique appendages or body structures that set them apart from other species.


Non edible crabs can be found in a variety of habitats around the world. They are commonly found in rocky intertidal areas, where they can hide among the crevices and blend in with their surroundings. These crabs are also known to inhabit coral reefs, estuaries, and seagrass beds.

Some species of non edible crabs are even adapted to live in deep-sea environments. It is important to note that the specific habitats of non edible crabs may vary depending on the species and their geographical location.


Non edible crabs exhibit a range of interesting behaviors. Many of these crabs are opportunistic scavengers, feeding on dead organisms and decaying matter. They play a crucial role in maintaining the ecological balance of their habitats by cleaning up the environment.

Non edible crabs are also known for their aggressive nature, often engaging in territorial disputes with other crabs. Some species may even use their large claws to intimidate predators or defend themselves.

It is worth mentioning that while non edible crabs are not suitable for consumption, they still serve important ecological functions. Understanding their distinctive features, habitats, and behaviors can help us appreciate the diversity of the natural world and the intricate relationships between different species.

Benefits of Non Edible Crabs

Ecological Importance

Non edible crabs play a vital role in maintaining the ecological balance of marine and coastal ecosystems. They serve as important prey for various marine animals, such as fish, birds, and larger crustaceans.

By controlling the population of non edible crabs, these predators help maintain a healthy balance in the food chain.

Furthermore, non edible crabs are known for their ability to burrow into the sand or mud, which helps aerate the sediment and improve water circulation. This process is crucial for the survival of other marine organisms that depend on the oxygen-rich environment created by the burrowing activities of crabs.

Moreover, non edible crabs also contribute to the nutrient cycling in marine ecosystems. As they consume detritus and decaying organic matter, they break it down into smaller particles, facilitating the decomposition process.

This, in turn, releases essential nutrients back into the ecosystem, supporting the growth of other marine organisms.

Scientific Value

Non edible crabs are of significant scientific value as they provide insights into various fields of study, including marine biology, ecology, and evolutionary biology. Scientists study their behavior, habitat preferences, and reproductive patterns to understand the intricate workings of marine ecosystems.

Moreover, non edible crabs serve as indicator species, meaning their presence or absence can indicate the overall health of an ecosystem. Monitoring their populations can help scientists assess the impact of human activities, such as pollution or habitat destruction, on the environment.

Cultural Significance

Non edible crabs hold cultural significance in many coastal communities around the world. They are often depicted in folklore, myths, and traditional art forms, symbolizing resilience, adaptability, and the interconnectedness of nature.

In addition, non edible crabs are sometimes used in traditional medicine practices. Certain cultures believe that the shells or extracts from non edible crabs possess medicinal properties that can alleviate various ailments.

Furthermore, non edible crabs are also sought after by recreational divers and snorkelers who appreciate their unique colors, patterns, and behaviors. Observing these fascinating creatures in their natural habitat brings joy and a sense of wonder to many nature enthusiasts.


While non edible crabs like hermit crabs, horseshoe crabs, and crab lice do not provide food sources, they remain integral parts of natural ecosystems and valuable for scientific study. Understanding why certain crabs are unsafe or undesirable to eat can prevent food poisoning and support conservation efforts.

With careful identification guided by this article’s tips, it becomes easier to appreciate the diversity of crabs in their natural habitats.

Similar Posts