Coconut Crabs in The Closet
Two nights ago I found a coconut crab in the kitchen, a little guy who scuttled under our gas stove. Little being fist-sized. I was opening the door of the fridge to get a glass of water when I looked down and saw a crab next to my left foot looking up at me, frozen, hoping not to be seen. I jumped away and let out a startled little “ahh,” and hopped out of our kitchen. Which was when he ran for cover.
I moved home to Guam five months ago with my girlfriend. We renovated the downstairs of my dad’s two-story cliffside home and moved in. We love it and are endlessly grateful and delighted by this good fortune. The island is teeming with wildlife in the way that the word was made to be used.
You can hear a crackling symphony of organisms growing and moving and living if you listen closely enough. As I write this a black butterfly flits past the window and beyond that hibiscus grow and then the cliff drops off and past that waves break on the reef, white foam surging over coral.
Coconut Crabs are the largest known arthropods and can weigh up to nine pounds, which is thankfully much larger than our little visitors. Having to guess, I’d say they’ve been around one to two pounds, since I haven’t put them on the kitchen scale. They are relatives of the hermit crab and have been nicknamed the robber crab because of their advanced sense of smell and scavenging techniques.
I assume our hungry little friend in the kitchen smelled my sourdough starter on the counter or maybe the ripening bananas sitting on top of the fridge and came to investigate. He eventually came out from beneath the stove and I managed to scoop him into a plastic cereal container and put him outside on the grass.
Above us my dad and his wife remain unfazed by their coconut crab friends. They’ve even named one of them Henry and swear that they can tell him apart from the other ones. He comes in occasionally to eat kibble from the dog’s bowl and they greet him happily and then casually go back to their evening.
Last night I found a larger crab walking toward our bedroom closet, the little clickety-clack of his hard, pointed legs on the tile alerted me. We were lounging in bed talking when we heard the slight click click click and paused. He froze, sensing our eyes on him.
Shannon shrieked and jumped out of bed, shouting, “get him out.”
She grew up in Illinois where pests are decidedly less exotic. I ushered him out with the broom and dust pan, as gently as possible. And then, humoring her, went to check inside the closet to make sure there weren’t any more crabs before we returned to bed. And there was another one! This one, even larger, was perched on my leather ankle boot.
He froze also and I could sense his dismay at being discovered. There’s something so comical about a large land lobster hanging out in your closet that it’s hard even to be annoyed. Maybe they sense that we won’t eat them and, being an island delicacy, have decided to make our land their unofficial refuge.
I wish we had cameras up to see them creep in. They’re nocturnal so it must have been at sunset when I was back in the kitchen chopping up garlic for the spicy lentil curry I was making. Under the pink, dusk sky they smelled the simmering turmeric and coriander and sidestepped across the tile undetected, hiding out under the couch or behind a potted plant until Shannon came home. She shut the doors to the outside and opened our bedroom door to let the air conditioning cool things down.
We went upstairs to have dinner with my dad, lugging our heavy, blue enameled pot of curry with us. And that’s when they made a break for the bedroom. I have looked down twice now and found one right next to my foot. Maybe they have a proclivity for feet and that’s how they decided on the closet. I really don’t mind as long as they don’t pinch my toes, which is something I try not to think about.
I got the big crab out of the closet using a cardboard box. He was the easiest to remove because he clamped onto the broom bristles and held tight with his pinchers while I lifted him him off of my boot and into the box and then hurriedly set it outside on the porch. His weight was intimidating .
They look black, but when you examine them closer they are a dark purple with little bits of lavender and some orange tones. I saw a huge one climbing up a vertical wooden porch beam outside our window recently, they’re more active in these days leading up to the full moon. I am glad he wasn’t in our house. I have successfully relocated all crabs on my own thus far, but am not sure I could handle the removal of a cat-sized crab all on my own.