The scourge of the Summer Stingers

10 Jan 2011 0 4,600 VIEWS

If you were sporting a few battle scars from your weekend surf this morning, you’re not alone. Prevailing onshore winds saw Bluebottle jellyfish plague beaches along Australia’s East Coast, and it seems only a lucky few have come out of the water unscathed. It’s the classic summer scenario: east coast epidemics of jellyfish.

Bluebottles, or Portuguese Man-o-war, are unwelcome seasonal visitors to Australia’s beaches. According to Coastalwatch’s resident weather guru Ben Macartney onshore winds, such as those we experienced over the weekend, push the bluebottles in to the beaches. And with onshore winds are predicted to continue this week, the bluebottle epidemic may not ease anytime soon.

“We’re currently experiencing an extended easterly flow affecting the entire east coast over the coming week which will sustain bluebottles at higher than average numbers,” said Ben.

John Charlton, Coastalwatch’s chief surf reporter agrees: “Persistent onshore winds through the night contribute to the plague washing up on our shores. When the wind backs off at night, the rush of bluebottles doesn’t seem to be so bad.”

Some patrolled beaches on Sydney’s coast closed beaches over the weekend to avoid the stingers.

“While it’s not normal practice to close the beach under such circumstances, warning signs about the bluebottle infestation were displayed and announcements were made over the loudspeaker system,” says Chris Parsons, spokesperson for the Manly Lifeguards.

“The bluebottles arrived in waves covering virtually all of the flagged beach areas. At one point, the public’s heeding of the warnings meant that virtually no swimmers were in the water.”

Bluebottles are a team of organisms called zooids, together they function as a single animal. Some zooids make up the stinging tentacles, while other zooids make up the feeding tentacles. Under a microscope a tentacle will look like a long string of barbed hooks, hence they stick to human skin. Bluebottles range from blue to pink hues, and tentacles can grow up to ten metres long. Click here for more information and fun facts on blueys.

So what do you do when there’s swell, it’s hot, you want to go surfing, but the sea is bobbing with little blue bubbles? Short of surfing in stockings, there’s not much you can do but stay out of the water or take your chances in an uncrowded lineup.

The Australian Museum advises the best aftercare of stings is to immerse in hot water and avoid itching or rubbing the sting as this releases more of the toxin. It is best to rinse with seawater (not freshwater), and apply soothing antihistamine or anaesthetic ointment, and wait it out. And no matter how emphatic your mates are, peeing on it won’t help.

Got any hilarious Bluey stories? Know any home remedies? Let us know...


Got any hilarious Bluey stories?

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