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Thousands of Australians stung in bluebottle jellyfish invasion

Around 13,000 stings have been recorded in the past week.

Image: Shutterstock/Olga Kashubin

AN INVASION OF bluebottle jellyfish in Queensland, Australia, has seen a record number of swimmers stung by the sea creatures, resulting in the closure of a number of beaches. 

The bluebottles washed up on the shores of Australia’s Gold and Sunshine coasts in huge numbers according to local media, with around 13,000 stings recorded in the past week. 

“A whopping 3,595 people were stung by bluebottles over the weekend,” Surf Life Saving Queensland tweeted.

Due to the northeasterly winds, we will continue to see bluebottles hanging around.

At least four major beaches remained closed as the organisation warned that even more jellyfish were on their way as unusually strong winds push the jellyfish to the shore. 

“A wall of bluebottles is approaching Rainbow beach. Lifesavers are closing the beach. Please stay out of the water,” Surf Life Saving Queensland said.

While the presence of the bluebottle is not uncommon on Queensland beaches, the high number of people stung in the last few days has shocked authorities as there are usually around 10,000 cases of bluebottle stings on the east coast of Australia each year.

shutterstock_746079637 (1) High angle view of bluebottle stingers washed up on beach in New South Wales, Australia. Source: Shutterstock/Natalie Board

According to the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners, the bluebottle (Physalia utriculus ) is not a true jellyfish, but a colony of individual organisms. 

It is often confused with its larger more venomous cousin the Portuguese Man o’ War (Physalia physalis) which is mostly found in the Atlantic ocean.   

A sting from a bluebottle causes an immediate sharp pain and slight inflammatory skin reaction. The intense pain from the sting can last for several hours and can be followed by a dull ache involving the joints.

Dr Lisa-Ann Gershwin, an expert from Australian Marine Stinger Advisory Services, told ABC News that a bluebottle’s crest acts like a sail and they get pushed along by strong winds.

“They get picked up by the wind and blown as long as the wind keeps going or until they hit land and strand on the beaches, so that’s when we see them obviously,” Dr Gershwin said.

Some of the bluebottle sails are right-handed and some are left-handed, across the body, so when the wind comes up it only grabs the ones with the sail going the right way for that particular breeze.

“It’s nature’s way of making sure the population never becomes extinct.”

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Adam Daly

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