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Moreton Bay Bug (Thenus orientalis) Photographs and Information

Moreton Bay Bugs are also known as Bay Lobster, Bug, Shovelnose Lobster, Slipper Lobster, Squat Lobster and Mud Bug.

Moreton Bay Bugs are found along the entire coast of the northern half of Australia.   They live on the sea bed, in turbid inshore coastal waters from 10 metres to 30 metres in depth over soft, unconsolidated mud and fine sand and silt particles.

Two spawning or more are common and take place during the summer.  A female can produce between 16,000 and 60,000 (average 32,000) eggs per brood.

They are active at night, remaining buried in bottom sediment with only their eyes and antennules or "feelers" exposed during the day.  They are highly mobile and can move great distances (up to 50 nautical miles)

Adults are selective foragers and will capture live prey including fish, crustaceans and molluscs.

Moreton Bay Bugs are generally caught commercially as a by-catch of local prawn fisheries by demersal otter trawls and with dredge nets.

How to tell Balmain and Moreton Bay Bugs apart: Balmain is a narrow peninsula and Balmain Bugs’ eyes are narrow, located close together in the centre of their heads. Moreton Bay is a wide bay and Moreton Bay Bugs’ eyes are set broadly apart on either side of their shells. Slipper Lobsters’ eyes are in between, closer to the edges than the centre, but not on the actual edge.


moreton bay bugs, slipper lobsters

Map showing where Moreton Bay Bug (Thenus orientalis) are found in Australian waters.

Scientific Name Thenus orientalis
Location Northern Half of Australia
Season All year round.
Size To 560 grams, but usually around 120g
Australian Species Code 00 700002
Taste, Texture Sweet delicate taste, medium texture


Nutritional Information
For every 100 grams raw product
for Bug meat.

Kilojoules 399 (95 calories)
Cholesterol 121 mg
Sodium 185 g
Total fat (oil) 0.8 g
Saturated fat 36% of total fat
Monounsaturated fat 23% of total fat
Polyunsaturated fat 41% of total fat
Omega-3, EPA 39 mg
Omega-3, DHA 49 mg
Omega-6, AA 45 mg

Fishing for Moreton Bay Bugs:

Moreton Bay Bug Meat

Available wild-caught, it is a marine crustacean with a reddish brown shell, broad flat head with eyes at either edge of the shell, short narrow tail and 5 pairs of small legs. Found on muddy or sandy bottoms at 10-60m, north from northern NSW to Shark Bay in WA, though caught primarily between Cairns and Bundaberg as bycatch of Prawn and Scallop fisheries. They often bury themselves in sand or mud during the day and become active after dark. Thenus orientalis can be distinguished from Thenus indicus by the spots on its legs and a brown tail fan (T.indicus has no spots and a yellow tail fan).

Cooking Moreton Bay Bugs - Slipper Lobsters:

Bugs are usually sold whole, sometimes live but often already cooked. If possible buy live from a tank, in which case they should be lively with a hard shell (indicating that they haven’t recently moulted) and all legs and antennae should be intact. In cooked Bugs, look for brightly coloured, firm, intact, lustrous shells, without any discolouration, particularly at joints, and a pleasant fresh sea smell. They should feel heavy for their size and their tails should be tightly curled. Steam, poach, deep-fry, pan-fry, stir-fry, grill, or barbecue Bugs.

Commercial Fishing for Moreton Bay Bugs:

The Queensland Trawl Fishery targets several species of prawns, scallops and other species. Trawls alter the substrate cover in the area being swept by the trawl and they catch fish and other bottom-dwelling (benthic) animals as a bycatch. Trawlers take and market a range of bycatch species, including Moreton Bay bugs, blue swimmer crabs, winter whiting, squid, cuttlefish and other species. Trawlers can tow either otter or beam trawl nets, travelling across the seabed at slow speeds, mainly between 2.5 and 3.5 knots at various depths. Otter trawls are used primarily for the capture of prawns and scallops, whereas beam trawlers (usually operating inshore and in estuaries, eg. Moreton Bay, Hervey Bay), is used for the capture of prawns (usually, greasyback, school and banana prawns). Beam trawling involves towing of a trawl net with the mouth of the net held open by a rigid frame on skids. Most of the catch goes to the bait market, but banana prawns are sold for human consumption. Buyers of Slipper Lobster, Sellers of Moreton Bay Bugs also listed.

Green Slipper Lobsters, Squat Lobsters, Sand Lobsters, Bugs

Moreton Bay Bug Meat


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