Hermit Crabs Storm the Beaches of St. John

St. John is a popular island, but in late July and early August the beaches get a little more crowded. Millions of locals flock to the beaches to have babies. No, it’s not millions of people, that would be disgusting and I’m sure illegal. We’re talking about millions of Hermit Crabs.

These hermit crabs, also called the soldier crab or the Caribbean hermit crab, are native to islands throughout the Caribbean. Every summer, millions of these armored crabs descend from their forest homes and make their way to the sea to release their eggs. Watching this march is one of natures most amazing spectacles.

Our friends at On-StJohn.com in conjunction with Pam Gaffin, author of “St. John: Feet, Fins and 4-Wheel Drive,” and local Cheryl Geller shot some video of the hermit crab march from a beach near Salt Pond. The coolest part is hearing all their little legs scooting around the rocks and their shells clanging around. Love nature!

Hermit Crabs Flowing into the Sea on St. John

The epic march begins on the forest floor in July or early August when the shell toting crabs meet up with others of their kind for a little sexy time. They mate by partially removing their bodies from their shells, allowing the males to drop off their sperm sacks. Then each female lays thousands of fertilized eggs and carries them around for about a month as they grow larger. The crabs continue their journey to the sea, sometimes covering distances of several miles.

Triggered by the crescent moon at the end of August or early September, the female crabs fumble into the water. The eggs burst and the larvae float into the waves once in contact with the salt water. Over the course of three or four days, they “wash” their eggs in the water and then all together, the hermit crabs make their way back to the forest.

How has Disney not made a movie out of this yet?!

Have you witnessed the hermit crab migration? I would love to hear about your experience!


By |2016-12-31T11:58:06+00:00August 30th, 2013|Islands, St. John, U.S. Virgin Islands|5 Comments

About the Author:

Just a salty pirate looking to explore and document the wonders of the Caribbean. Professional blogger, rum judge, consultant, marketer, and consumer of blue water beauty.


  1. Jodi August 30, 2013 at 9:54 am

    That would make a great Disney movie!

  2. mm
    RumShopRyan August 30, 2013 at 10:01 am

    I know right! Have a great weekend Jodi!

  3. Katie Lyon August 31, 2013 at 7:50 am

    That was great, loved the chicken. Maybe one day I will get to see for myself!

  4. Ted Johnson February 1, 2014 at 9:56 pm

    I grew up on the island of Saba and this annual migration is locally called the “wash” and occurs in the months of July – September. As boys we would occasionally catch these crabs, which we simply called “soldiers” or “soljers” for fishing bait. However, it was said that when the soldiers went to wash the “soldier tail” that was used for bait had a different odor and was no good for fishing. There are still many soldiers in Saba and St. Eustatius, but the population in St. Maarten seems to have diminished over the years due to habitat loss caused by over-development.

  5. mm
    RumShopRyan February 4, 2014 at 6:53 pm

    Thanks for the first hand knowledge Ted! I’m hopefully stopping at Saba on a cruise this coming March. There’s just something about your island that seems special. Cheers!

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