Bluebottles swarm coast

November 16, 2023 BY

Bluebottles are known for traveling on the wind in massive swarms and have stinging predatory tentacles that can reach lengths of 10 meters. Photo: SLS

AN ARMADA of bluebottles has invaded beaches along The Bellarine and Surf Coast, causing alarm among beachgoers.

Although commonly referred to as jellyfish, the bluebottle, or Indo-Pacific Man o’ War, is not a jellyfish but a colonial organism called a Siphonophore.

Bluebottles are known for traveling on the wind and currents in massive swarms and have stinging predatory tentacles that can reach lengths of 10 meters.

While they are a natural part of the marine environment, in humans, their sting can cause pain and swelling, with tentacles needing to be removed with tweezers.

Barwon Coast Acting CEO Paul Gangell acknowledged that bluebottles are an unfortunate reality of coastal life.

“Bluebottles are one of the less-enjoyable aspects of coastal life – every so often they end up in our waters and on our beaches.”

According to researchers at UNSW 1 in 6 Australians have been stung by a marine stinger, and most of those are by bluebottles.

Over the years, various theories on treating jellyfish stings have circulated, with remedies ranging from vinegar to ice packs gaining popularity.

However, research published in the Medical Journal of Australia suggests that, in fact, hot water immersion at 45 degrees Celsius is the most effective method for alleviating pain from bluebottle stings.

While treatment options exist, Mr. Gangell emphasised the importance of avoidance.

“We try to let our communities know when bluebottles are spotted, in an effort to help them hopefully avoid what can be a very painful sting,” he said.

“We encourage people to keep an eye out, and keep themselves, their children and pets away from Bluebottles any they see on the sand or in the water.”


Surf Life Saving Bluebottle First Aid

1. Do not allow rubbing of the sting area.
2. Adherent blue tentacles may be seen after a sting and are distinctive for Physalia physalis. Carefully remove any adhering tentacles (remember they may still sting you if not all nematocysts have discharged).
3. Rinse the area well with sea water (not freshwater).
4. Place the affected sting area in hot water – no hotter than the rescuer can comfortably tolerate for 20 minutes.
5. If the pain is unrelieved by heat, or if hot water is not available, apply cold packs or ice in a dry plastic bag.
6. Send for medical aid if symptoms persist, or if an allergic reaction occurs.

For more information about bluebottles, including how to stay safe at the beach this summer, visit www.beachsafe.org.au

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