- Mitchell Varela has been getting pedicures from crabs in San Diego, California, since he was a kid.
- The crabs are a small species of scavengers known as striped shore crabs.
- They clean dirt and grime from underneath and on the surface of fingers and toenails.
Following is a transcript of the video.
– My name’s Mitchell Varela, and I’m going to show you how crabs clean dirt and grime from under your toenails.
The types of crabs that I use are called striped shore crabs, and they can be found right on the shoreline within the rocks, mostly on the Western side of the United States. They’re scavengers, so they pretty much eat anything that they can grab, but their primary diet is algae.
So, the key to attracting crabs towards your toes is a lot of observing the crabs that are on the shoreline. So where I live, in San Diego, California, there’s hundreds, if not thousands of these crabs. So you stand there, you can watch all over where they’re at. And I look for crabs that are actively picking algae off the rocks, because they’re showing me that they’re very hungry.
You gotta stand there very patiently, but if you put your foot right near where they’re eating off the rock, 10, 20, maybe 30 minutes later, they’ll slowly come out. And if you haven’t been moving, they’ll start to try your toes. Most of the time, I’m out there for hours at a time. It’s very uncomfortable, but yes, you have to stand completely still, otherwise they will get scared of you.
So, what the crab is doing is pulling out a lot of buildup from under the toe. It’s the easiest stuff for them to grab. There’s a lot of testing for the crab. You’ll see it pinching at different things just to see what it can actually grab onto, because I don’t believe they have very good eyesight. So I don’t think it really knows what it’s grabbing at, but it’s just reaching for what it can.
They taste with their toes. So if it’s touching my feet with its toes to see what I am, then I know it’s somewhat interested. But generally you can tell within a couple of seconds or minutes that a crab is interested or not. They also can taste with their mouth, so they have, unlike us, multiple ways of tasting.
I do not know why they find toes appetizing. I’ve never asked a crab. But they do. So, sometimes, luckily, there’s a hangnail or a little piece of skin on the edge, and they really like that. But they’ll try to go for the flat surfaces, but it doesn’t look like they’re grabbing much, because they’re not.
The feeling I would describe for a crab pedicure is a tugging sensation. Everybody’s feet are different, but for me there’s no pain involved. It’s just a pulling sensation, which I find relaxing, weirdly. I don’t know. [laughs]
The majority of them are very afraid of me. They are very delicate, so if you misstep or whatnot, it could be a bad day for the crab.
So, eating human skin I don’t have any proof affects them negatively, because they’re scavengers. I always come from a viewpoint of, they eat a lot worse, because they’ll literally eat dead birds that are crammed between rocks, which I think is a lot worse, but I am also not a wildlife biologist, so I don’t know 100%.
As far as I know, there is no way of getting sick from the crabs or the crabs getting sick from me. There’s potential for there being diseases within a crab, just like anything else. And so I would never let a crab pick at an open wound, I would never let a crab pick at anything that’s raw on my skin. But other than that, I have never had issues with them my entire life.
The final results of the pedicure is generally a lot cleaner under the toenail and along the sides of the toenail. So any hangnails are usually gone by the time they’re done. They will clean the top of your toenail pretty good too. They just won’t clip your toenails for you, and I’m trying to figure that one out, how they can do that for you too.