Recently, Portuguese man o’war “jellyfish” have been spotted along the coast of Dorset.
The species, which is sometimes blown into UK seas and washed up on Western British shores, are sometimes spotted on the Isles of Scilly and in Cornwall. Recently, though, they’re been travelling more and more northerly ― even reaching the beaches of Dorset.
In a social media post, Dorset Wildlife Trust shared that the dangerous creatures had recently been seen in Wyke Regis and Cheshil beach.
“Look but do not touch! They have an extremely nasty and painful sting, even once they have died,” they warned in their post. So, we thought we’d explain what to look out for ― and what to do if you think you’ve spotted a Portuguese man o’war.
What am I looking for?
Surprisingly, Portuguese man o’war critters aren’t jellyfish ― instead, they’re a series of creatures called zooids, who each have sole jobs (like breeding and eating). They come together to form the siphonophore that is a Portuguese man o’ war.
Their appearance is distinctive ― in fact, Wildlife Trusts describes them as being “unmistakable”.
Their long tentacles can grow up to 20cm, and are “A large translucent purple float, the crest tipped with pink, and long blueish-violet tentacles. The float is seen bobbing on the surface of the sea, sometimes caught in mats of seaweed. They lose their colour quickly after stranding and can appear translucent with just a tinge of purple after a while ashore,” Wildlife Trusts shared.
What do I do if I spot one?
First of all, don’t approach it. The jellyfish have a powerful sting even after they’ve died. While staying at a safe distance, snap a picture and report the creature to firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you’re walking your dog or another pet, draw it close to you and keep it away from the jellyfish ― they can become very sick from the stings, too.
If you’ve been stung, the NHS advises you ask a lifeguard for help if available. If not, you should:
rinse the affected area with seawater (not fresh water)
remove any spines from the skin using tweezers or the edge of a bank card
soak the area in very warm water (as hot as can be tolerated) for at least 30 minutes – use hot flannels or towels if you cannot soak it
Don’t use vinegar, ice packs, or urine on the wound, and don’t cover it. Don’t touch any spines poking out with your bare hands. Visit a minor injuries unit if the pain won’t go away or if you’ve been stung on your face or genitals.
And you should call 999 or visit A&E if you experience any of the following after a sting:
- difficulty breathing
- chest pain
- fits or seizures
- severe swelling around the affected area
- severe bleeding
- lightheadedness or loss of consciousness.
Stay safe, seaside wanderers!