Feeling Crabby?

A broken pincer could make for a crabby crab
I suspect we’ve all experienced periods of Lucy Van Pelt style crabbiness over the past months, but this creature is ‘crabby’ all the time. It is, after all, a crab: a familiar sight in my part of the world.


Since I usually encounter crabs in the water, finding this one scuttling along atop a grassy levee intrigued me.  After cutting an erratic path through the grasses, it made a sudden turn, scooted down the levee’s side, and disappeared into a hole several feet above the water. Minutes passed, but the crab didn’t reappear, so I decided it had reached its destination, and went on my way.



If the crab had been our tasty blue swimming crab (Callinectes sapidus), I might have looked for its friends and turned them into supper. But the crabs I’ve known tend to stay in or very near the water, and a little research led me to suspect I’d met my first blue land crab (Cardisoma guanhumi) in that grass.


Usually found farther south in Texas, the blue land crab does range all along the Gulf coast into Florida, and this one had all the marks of C. guanhumi: a blue-green carapace and orange-to-brown legs, a single over-sized claw, its relatively large size and, of course, the fact that it was cruising around on land before it retreated into that hole.


A terrestrial species, the crab’s generally found near the shores of estuaries, creeks, and river banks. Burrowing into dense shrubbery, mud, or coastal sand hills, the crab prefers a burrow above the tide line and as much as six feet beneath the ground’s surface. Even when foraging, it doesn’t stray far from home, but uses light and sound to find the leaves, grasses, insects, and carrion it prefers. After foraging, it carries its food in its claws back to its burrow, eats until satisfied, and saves the leftovers for later.


The crab leads a relatively hidden and solitary life, but despite its solitary nature, on this day it seemed to welcome — or at least tolerate — an unexpected visitor. When a Blue Corporal dragonfly (Ladona deplanta) stopped by for an extended visit, they seemed perfectly at ease with one another, and not at all crabby or blue.


Comments always are welcome.

71 thoughts on “Feeling Crabby?

    1. Can you imagine giving that one a mani-pedi? I suppose there might have to be an added charge for that big claw. Not only would it take a little extra time, it looks as though there might have to be some reconstruction done in the process!

    1. I never realized there were so many species of crab in Texas, and this one was a real surprise. What caught my attention was the sound of it moving through the grass. I heard it before I saw it, and thought it might have been a snake. I’m sure glad it wasn’t. You’re right about the heat, that’s for sure. The gurus say we’ll get some relief next week, and I suspect everyone’s ready.

        1. I never wear earbuds. Never have. Sound is as important as sight when it comes to exploring nature: birdsong, alligator grunts, rises or falls in the wind — they’d all be missed.

  1. Wow, that’s a memorable shot, a surprised crab with his eyes bugging out. I wonder if the crab was considering the dragonfly as a snack, or a great fashion accessory.

    1. I was surprised that the dragonfly lingered as long as it did, and I was even more surprised that the crab just sat there and looked at it. The dragonfly sat there for at least a half minute. I was afraid to move around too much for a better shot, since I was sure the dragonfly, or the crab, or both might skedaddle.

  2. Not feeling “crabby” nor “blue,” so can’t identify with the theme, but certainly love the images. Based on Mr. Crab’s coloration, I’d say he (she) is just as much at home in the grass as on the beach.

    1. I’m not singing the blues, but there are a lot of crabby dock workers, roofers, road crews, and lawn care specialists mumbling about the heat. It’s standard-issue August, but still…

      I was curious about this one’s color, since some photos I’ve seen show the crab as a nice, even blue. Then, I read that it molts approximately sixty times during its lifespan, compared to the twenty times typical of other crab species. That’s a long process, and it makes me think this probably is an older juvenile that’s still “in process.”

  3. What an interesting little guy. (His habits strangely like some humans – take-out food and preferring to eat alone in his single family home. Actually I don’t know much about land crabs at all – just the beachy ones. Always wondered at pictures of that extra large claw – wondered if it was mutation or result of accident, but just ordinary. (One large much better than 2 large if retreating into holes) Glad this one has a coolish spot and sense to use it during all this heat. Everyone needs a flighty friend? Fun post

    1. The only other crabs with large claws I’ve seen here are the fiddler crabs and stone crabs. I think there used to be more stone crabs in our bay system before the oyster reefs got in trouble; apparently they like to hang out around the reefs.

      The very concept of a land crab surprised me. There are plenty of blue crabs in the estuaries — as a matter of fact, I saw a few on the rocks along the Clear Creek channel yesterday. Now I’ll know to look a little more closely when I hear something rustling around the levees. Where there’s one, there are bound to be more.

    1. Maybe the dragonfly saw that big, old claw sticking up out of the grass as a good landing spot. Or, it might have been attracted by those fabulous crab eyes. With those eyes sticking up into the air and moving around, they might have looked enough like an insect that the dragonfly decided to stop by for a better look.

    1. Well, now! I’m glad of that. I figured I couldn’t be the only crabby one in the world. If you’re still a little afflicted, I highly recommend this. Take two listens, and I guarantee you’ll feel better in the morning. Maybe sooner.

      1. That helped a lot, and I didn’t have to wait until morning! I needed to be reminded that my bad moods are often a sign that I’ve been neglecting my RDA of music, so thanks.

    1. I swear, there’s always a surprise lurking around. Like your ditch denizens, the crab was a delight to discover; once I figured out that ‘land crab’ is a thing, it was even better. I really do like those deep blue and black dragonflies. They have a fairly short season, but they’re pretty common here, and I was happy to get a photo of one.

    1. I found them on the Rogers pond levee at Brazoria. I’d parked at the turnaround and was about fifty feet past the gate when I heard it. The next time I’m out there, I’m going to examine the sides of the levee more closely, to see if there’s evidence of more.

  4. I suppose by necessity most of us are imitating crabs these days! The isolation for sure has become a way of life, as has scuttling out of our homes for brief forays into the world, then climbing back into our holes. I guess I didn’t realize these guys have one oversized claw — must make travel precarious!

    1. Fiddler crabs and stone crabs have one big claw, too. I think (though I’m not positive) that in all of the species the females’ claws are smaller, and the same size; only the male grows a big claw. Who knows? Maybe like the colors of male birds, that claw makes him more attractive to the girls!

    1. Some dragonflies seem to enjoy a little thrill from time to time. I once saw one perched on top of an alligator’s head, but it was too far away for a decent photo. I remembered it when I saw this one, and wondered if every species has its risk-takers.

    1. The heat’s turned me into something resembling this crab — tucked into my hole, and reluctant to come out. Unfortunately (or fortunately, I suppose) staying tucked away isn’t an option, so heat-and-world have to be set aside. When I remembered these photos, they made me smile, and I’m glad you smiled, too!

    1. Isn’t it fun to know there are little “secrets” out there still to be discovered? I was tickled enough to find the crab, but when the dragonfly showed up, that took it to the next level. Have you ever done a dragonfly? I looked at your Pate de Verre piece and didn’t find one — but it was fun remembering how cool your bees and hisbiscus are!

  5. How can you be crabby when such a beautiful creature as a dragonfly alights on you? I’m partial to that lovely blue Crabby McCrabbypants has on his carapace.

    1. I laughed at “Crabby McCrabbypants” — it reminded me of Boaty McBoatface. I’d hate to have to make a forced choice between the blues. The dragonfly’s deep blue is wonderful, but that teal is nice, too. Who knows? Maybe the two critters are admiring each other.

    1. I learned something else about the blue land crabs that might interest you. They generally molt sixty times or so during their lives; other crabs molt around twenty times. I still haven’t figured out whether that means they’re longer-lived, or whether that’s a function of their somewhat unusual life style — but it sure is interesting.

      As for the dragonfly, that was pure luck — a bit of lagniappe for us all!

  6. Now that’s a first: a dragonfly alighting on a crab’s claw. What serendipity for you to have been there with a camera at that moment.

    By one of those coincidences that keep happening, tomorrow and the next day I’ll be showing—separately—a dragonfly and a crustacean’s claw.

    1. Serendipity, indeed. All things considered, I was happy to get the dragonfly in fairly good focus. The claw was so big, there was quite a distance between it and the body of the crab; maybe that encouraged the dragonfly to use it as a landing pad.

      I’m wondering about your crustacean. I don’t think there are many shrimp in your area, so I’ll bet on a crawfish — although a crab wouldn’t be impossible.

    1. Now, that’s a funny thought. Can’t you imagine an animation done to the old Sammy Kershaw tune?

      “She said, “You don’t look like my type
      But I guess you’ll do”
      Third rate romance
      Low rent rendezvous…”

    1. Thanks, Pit. It’s a perfect illustration of right time, right place. Believe me — I didn’t go out that day thinking, “I believe I’ll find a dragonfly sitting on a crab pincer.” Sometimes, life just hands us a remarkable sight.

      1. Many of the greatest photos, I think, are just taken when the photographer is in the right place at the right time. But still: you need a photographer’s eye to spot these motifs.
        Well done, Linda!

    1. I speak a little mallard, and some squirrel, but no crab or dragonfly; I wish I did. However: I did inquire of Google: “What do dragonflies like to land on?” Look what I found:

      “As cold blooded insects, they need to absorb the warmth of the sun before they can be really active. Place some light-coloured rocks around your garden pond for dragonflies to sun themselves on, and make sure that it is not more than 30% covered by shade.”

      That light-colored claw might have been performing the same function: serving as a place for the dragonfly to sun itself. Granted, the photo was taken in July, but it was early morning, so it’s as good an explanation as any.

  7. What a rare and perhaps rather unusual capture – a dragonfly atop a crab. Glad you had your camera with you.

    1. It was a rare one for me! I’ve never seen such a thing, but it was great fun to witness. I’m still not so good at rapid adjustment of camera settings, but it worked out well enough, and I was thrilled to have a decent photo to share.

  8. I knew feeling crabby was associated with feeling cranky but never thought it related to crabs. Perhaps it doesn’t. Do crabs show angry traits? They ought to, seeing they are often cooked alive. It can’t be nice to meet your end like that.
    Dragonfly is nice to give comfort to the crab. They are my favorite insect. I like the way they hover in suspended contemplation before landing somewhere.

    1. Actually, crabs and crabbiness are related: at least, etymologically. ‘Crabby,’ meaning “peevish, angry, ill-tempered, or spiteful,” dates to the 14th century, and is related to the crab’s combative disposition, especially its willingness to nip at others with those significant pincers.

      As for the dragonfly, they are wonders. I used to be a little afraid of them as a kid, but now I just admire them. I certainly am glad when one pauses and allows me to admire a little longer.

    1. I remember a time when dragonfly pins were all the rage. Then, they seemed to disappear, but I think they’re in fashion again. This one certainly does shine on Mr. Crab’s claw.

    1. What’s interesting are the similarities in behavior between this one and the fiddler crab. There are differences — fiddlers’ burrows aren’t as deep, for example — but otherwise the behaviors are as recognizable as those big claws. It seems this one is able to take larger prey than the fiddler, but my little friend appears to have made a reach that exceeded his grasp. Maybe he lost some confidence when he lost the tip of that pincer.

  9. These crabs develop beautiful colors, as your first image well depicts. How amusing is the second one!

    I lived next to land crabs all my life. The blue land crabs lived further out on more deserted coasts. They’re bigger and yes, I read they live longer (https://bit.ly/311LD56). They’re overhunted and exploited in the Caribbean and beginning to be so in Florida also.

    1. I wondered if the blue land crabs were edible, and it seems the answer is “Yes, but…” From what I read, preparation is more complex, and if the blue land crab is taken from certain environments, people keep them caged for a few days, feeding them vegetables and such to clean out their systems.

      As far as I know, our crab population is relatively stable, but in other areas of the country, like the Chesapeake, they are in decline. Loss of habitat and overfishing contribute, of course.

      I finally found my photo of a dragonfly atop an alligator’s head. The quality’s not good because I was too far away, but it’s just as amusing.

      1. I don’t like the idea of any animals being ‘harvested’ for anything, much less crabs. It is precisely this practice that led to the decline in P.R. of both blue and red crabs.

        The image of the alligator is lovely. I found out there is either a Tokina or Tamron 100-400mm lens that is easy to handle and not that pricey, but I have not tried it. I struggled with the Canon #1 version for some years and that extra reach was useful I guess. I just don’t know how much this new lens weighs or feels.

        1. Harvesting can be done responsibly. Here in Texas, lower catch limits recently were instituted in order to help stabilize populations of certain fish, and ranch managers often turn to biologists and other experts to help determine the health of their deer herds and set targets for hunting. Over (or illegal) harvesting is a different thing — we have what’s called Operation Game Thief for a reason!

          1. Lowering catch limits is always a great idea. However, harvesting fish began because there was overfishing worldwide to the point of exhaustion, and several programs have been aired of the difficulties that arise of such practices.

            There is no need to shoot deer, when there is PZP (porcine zona pellucida), which is an immunocontraception vaccine that can be used to control fertility in adult female deer and other mammals. PZP simply prevents fertilization from occurring. Most importantly, because PZP is a natural protein, like all other proteins found in animals, it is safe to use and will not harm animals. PZP can be delivered to adult female deer by hand or remotely using darts shot from a dart gun. (https://bit.ly/3iSBY6R).

            1. I think we’re using the word ‘harvesting’ to mean quite different things. As for shooting deer, venison’s a perfectly good meat, and the ranchers I know who cull their herds to keep them healthy generally donate the meat.

            2. I think I know what you’re saying, although deer are considered wild animals and not farm animals, some ranchers treat them as such. What the Humane Society is saying is that the famous hunter’s ‘culling’ may not be necessary if that fertility control program is in place, but they treat them as if they were cows or something like that, only if they were to be consumed for their meat. Okay. Well, I’ve had my good dose of harvesting for today. Thanks for the explanation.

    1. This was one of those wonderful “I don’t know what it is, but I’m going to take some photos of it” moments. His colors made him fairly easy to spot in the grass, although it was the sound of him moving around that first caught my attention. I wouldn’t want to be pinched by those pincers!

    1. Isn’t that pair something? I guess it proves that wandering around aimlessly can be productive, too — as long as we pay attention to what’s going on around us. I do love these little surprises — nature’s full of them.

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