Phases of the Crab:
#1 Jimmy: a mature male with bluish-tipped claws and “rust” spots on the bottom. Its apron shape is Washington Monument.
#2 Jimmy: an immature male sometimes called a “Whitey”; usually sold to crab-picking companies. Its apron shape is Washington Monument.
Sook: a mature female in the mating phase; it has an orange color on the tips of its claws. Its apron shape is Washington Capitol.
Sally: an immature female. Its apron shape is triangular.
Sponge: an egg-carrying female. Females typically carry 2 million eggs, of which only 1-2 survive.
Learn the Lingo:
Green crab – A crab in the hard-shell phase.
Peeler – A crab getting ready to molt. Edges of the fin turn white, then pink, then red.
Rank peeler – A crab imminently molting.
Buster – A crab actively shedding its old shell.
Soft shell – A crab that has just molted.
Paper shell – A crab 12 hours after molt; shell is stiffening.
Buckram – A crab 24 hours after molt. Semi-stiff, crinkly hard, or leathery shell. Mating takes place now.
Whitey – Four or more days after molt. Bottom of shell is a lustrous white.
Crab Science 101:
Scientific name: Callinectes napidus (“Beautiful, savory swimmer”)
Scientific phases of molting:
a. Precdysis – “Peeler” stage; enzymes soften the exoskeleton.
b. Ecdysis – “Busting” stage; crab becomes anorexic, seeks shelter, and rapidly absorbs water to swell and split shell. Crab backs out of the split shell, becoming 30 percent larger.
c. Postecdysis – “Soft-shell” stage; new shell forms, hardening in water (2-4 days).
d. Anecdysis – “Terminal molt”; crab stops molting and focuses on reproduction.
A hormone receptor inhibits molting so the crab keeps its shell until spring/early summer. This period is called “instar.”
Crabs molt as often as every 10 days to every 50 days during the season.
Over a lifetime, females molt 18-20 times, males 21-23 times.
Molting can be lethal to the crab, especially if it’s older.
A crab’s lifespan is about one year in the Chesapeake Bay.
Shedding season is April-November.