Baby red crabs have infested the Cayman Islands by the hundreds of thousands, in an unusually heavy migration season that has caused havoc. If local superstition is any indicator, the Caribbean may face a rough hurricane season.
The crabs have scurried on past the immediate coast, onto roads, residents' yards, climbing up homes and scratching their way into homes. Most are infesting two of the three islands, Cayman Brac and Little Cayman.
People living in the coast will have them everywhere, Tim Austin, deputy director of the Cayman Islands' Environment Department, told the AP. They get in houses, into your AC system. Anywhere there's a gap, they'll find it. They're trying to get somewhere where they'll live happily.
Austin believes low tides and the recent supermoon combined to make life easier for the baby red crabs, allowing more of them to reach land.
The crabs' red hue is misleading, as the creatures climb ashore after they're born and lay low in forests and wetlands until they grow and reproduce, heading back into the water as a large black land crab seeking to deposit their eggs.
The creatures grow from the size of about a thumbnail to nearly a foot in some cases. Fully grown crabs can scamper at up to six feet per second, have been known to claw at the tires of passing cars.
Locals colloquially call them Hurricane Crabs because a superstition connects their presence to a particularly bad hurricane season.
There's a very strong feeling on the island that they relate to the arrival of a hurricane, District Commissioner Ernie Scott of Cayman Brac told the Cayman Compass. He added: I've seen them here in hurricane seasons when we didn't have any hurricanes and I've seen them in a season where we've experienced hurricanes.
Austin did not discount the hurricane theory entirely.
The hurricane connection is interesting ... No one's really looked into it, but it's not completely impossible, he told the Cayman Compass. If you think about the fact that ocean currents are responsible for hurricanes and that they influence the crabs coming back to shore, it's not impossible that there's a relationship, but as to what that relationship actually is, I've no idea.
The local government is urging drivers to avoid the crabs on the road -- an impossibility with all of the little buggers scurrying about en masse.
But the infestation is not necessarily a bad thing; they're a delicacy that promotes theft. Residents have been known to swipe garbage bins and go hunting for the crab at night. They then feed their temporary pets fruits and vegetables to clean their systems before eating them, James Gibb, a research officer of the local environmental department, told the AP.