Monday, November 27, 2017


How Many More Critters Do We Have to

Share Our House With, Living in Mexico?

This Crab has both Pincers UP and READY
     The first time I was gardening in Sayulita and turned over a trowel full of soil and something live ran out of it, I jumped up and screamed! My first thought was, "scorpion!" But, after I poked the critter gently with the tip of my trowel, I saw that it was a small crab. Probably harmless, I thought. In all of our travels, I have never seen such a thing! A crab that lives in garden soil. What next?
     I soon learned that these land crabs live in the soil in this area. Most of the year, we don't see a single one. They are burrowed down in the dirt, hibernating maybe, most of the year. But as soon as the rains start in May or June, they come out of the soil and we begin to see them in the yard. The rain is their signal to head to the beach where they will mate. We live 3/10 of a mile from the beach, so these crabs have a long hike through the jungle and over a large hill. They better start early if they plan to meet up with the other crabs who live near the beach!

     One day in May, when we let Bella, our dachshund, out in the morning, we soon heard a high-pitched barking that didn't stop. It wasn't her "watch out, there's a stranger in the neighborhood" bark. It was her "Come help me, I have a crab cornered!" bark. These little crabs, ranging from three to five inches in width across their backs, can take care of themselves--their pincers hurt like h--- when they get a hold of skin. Bella has found this out from experience, because once she came out of the garden shaking her head, with a crab claw still attached to her lower lip. The crab had clamped down on her mouth and then dropped his claw leg. The pincer stayed tightly clamped on her lip until Jon pulled it off. So, she knows to keep her distance from these little critters.

     But that doesn't stop Bella from hunting for crabs. She's a natural hunter, so she can't help herself. She corners one behind a garden sculpture, a potted plant, or hiding in a grouping of young palm trees. We would be perfectly content to leave these animals alone, except that Bella will bark incessantly when she finds one until we do something about it. So, I call Jon to come help. I'm not picking one up!

     Jon gets his thick leather gloves on and goes on crab-catching detail. He has been pinched several times before, right through the tough leather and knows how much it hurts. Jon has a high pain threshold, so if he says it hurts like he--, I believe him! He has perfected the technique of quickly capturing the fast critter while pinning his pincers at the same time. He knows he has to be gentle with the crabs or hear about it from me!

     Then, Jon takes the crab to the jungle across the street and gently releases him to be on his way to the beach. He has learned that if he doesn't take them far enough away, they find a way back into our yard, especially if the hard rains have not yet begun.

     Another morning, another crab-call from Bella, her high-pitched yap calling someone to come look at what she has found. There she is, in the garden, pointing at the crab. This one had BOTH pincers clamped onto Jon's leather glove after he caught it! That makes crab #10 removed from our small garden that spring and the downpours hadn't even started yet!

We decided to leave Sayulita in early July once the heat and humidity became uncomfortable. The crabs seemed to be gone from our yard, so we were pretty sure none would move into our house while we were away. But insects are another matter in the tropics. To keep the bugs out of things, we put all of our clean bedding, towels, and clothing into plastic bags, added one Bounce® dryer sheet to each bag, and tied it tightly closed. I sprayed a perimeter line of Home Defense® around the porch and across the doorways and we were ready to leave our home for a few months, sure that no critters would move in while we were away.
     The first thing I did when we returned to our casita in October was begin unpacking the clean towels and bedding. I pulled the black trash bag full of clean towels from beneath the bathroom sink and out from under the bag jumped six tiny black frogs. I screamed (why do I always have to scream when I’m startled?) and jumped back as six critters hopped around on the tile bathroom floor. I called for Jon, naturally. He is the catcher of all critters at our house. I wish I would have videoed him trying to catch those frisky little hopping things—it was a riot to watch. He finally caught each one in a section of paper towel and took them out to release them in our garden. Maybe that was the mistake.
                             Tiny Little Frog in My Kitchen Sink
For the past month, we have had at least one little frog in our shower or kitchen sink almost every morning. I haven’t figured out how they get into the house, up onto the kitchen counter and into the sink. But they obviously like places with water. I had to accept that I am capable of catching a little frog in my kitchen sink. I tried putting one into our little water feature in the yard, but he didn’t stay there. He must have preferred our kitchen sink. I really don’t mind the little frogs—they’re kind of cute, but what if someone comes to visit and sees frogs in our house? What will they think? I guess that’s the lesson learned—if we can get used to crabs in our garden and frogs in our sink, our friends and family members will have to, too. This is the tropics of México, after all. Life is different living here—never a dull moment around our house.

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  1. Loved the story about the critters. Bet there's never a dull mo
    ment especially with Bella chasing them more than likely.

    1. Thanks for readying my blog and for your great comment. Bella even found a crab in the garden last night! We've never seen one here during the dry season in the fall and winter. Maybe they like moving in here so they can pester Bella...ha ha. We had out-of-town visitors here at the time who had never seen one of our land crabs, so they got to experience the whole Bella and crab show.