I’ve been wanting to write about jellyfish so here goes: I’ve stated before that there are tons of moon jellies washing ashore since the last hurricane. They’re pretty big, too.
I took the boys on a 4H field trip last Friday to South Lido Beach near the park. The instructor was Keith Wilson from the Extension office. The children (there were 8 of them in this group) were throwing nets in the grasses along the shore. They were scooping up fish, grasses and moon jellies. Keith told the kids that moon jellies were ok to touch and showed them how to pick them up. Of course the boys that did pick them up got slimed but that was fun for them. Moon jellies are saucer-shaped and clear. They have a 4-lobed “flower”-like shape in the center. It can be pink or yellow. They have short tentacles that look frilly. We learned that some people can have a reaction to the slime of a moon jelly, some don’t. Only one of the children had a reaction to the slime. You can touch the top but if you’re not sure about having a reaction I wouldn’t recommend touching the tentacles. The jelly I’ve seen that I wouldn’t recommend touching at all is the Sea Nettle. This one has red radiating stripes. Jellies prey on zooplankton so there must be a ton of zooplankton by our coast right now for them to come in swarms.
Some jellies are bioluminescent so if you are at the beach at night, maybe star-gazing, check the surf for a pulsing light from the jellies.
Last Thanksgiving, we spent the holiday with my in-laws on the east coast of FL. They live on Singer Island. The afternoon we arrived we all took a walk along their beach and saw these purple balloon-like things all around us. At first we had just thought maybe someone had a party and didn’t clean up after themselves but then realized they were Portuguese Man-o-War. It was really cool to see them (I had never before seen one in person) but at the same time, since there were so many, it was creepy. Their tentacles are so long and even though they are beached, they can still sting so we had to be careful walking so not to step on one. We headed to the public beach just south of their condo for some shelling. Amazingly there were a lot of people swimming where these Man-o-War jellies were. Children included. I guess people either don’t care or they’re just oblivious to the dangers. According to Florida’s Living Beaches by the Witheringtons, Man-o-War live in the wide-open sea and beach themselves in the winter at the end of their journey. Beachings are most common December through May (we saw them the end of November). I shouldn’t call them jellies, although they do look like jellies. They’re actually colonies of individual polyps, each doing something to help the colony like collecting food, reproducing etc. They from the class Hydrozoa, phylum Cnidaria.
The tentacles of the Man-o-War can be 6 feet long when beached and up to 150 ft fully extended at sea. If you get stung, the tentacles stick to you, so don’t rub, just pick/peel it off. Then treat with meat tenderizer or urine.
We’re heading, once again, to Singer Island for Thanksgiving so I’ll post an update if we see them again. Maybe we’ll see another sea critter this time.