When the summer heat rises, so does the ocean temperature, providing a breeding ground for a loathed sea creature: the jellyfish.
Squishy dark red blobs have been seen floating in the surf and washed up on the shore at the Oceanfront over the last several days.
And they sting.
“We’ve seen an influx,” said Tom Gill, captain of the Virginia Beach Lifesaving Service. “It’s an irritation; some people are much more prone to the pain.”
The breed found locally are most likely Chesapeake nettles, said Julie Levans, senior curator at the Virginia Aquarium. They reproduce in warm, salty water.
“It’s been so hot; we start seeing these guys,” she said.
Chesapeake nettles live in the Chesapeake Bay and smaller tidal bays where they’re mostly translucent or white. The ones that live in the ocean can be reddish-maroon in the center because of the type of plankton they eat, Levans said.
Long stringy tentacles extend from the jellyfish’s body, or bell, and are used to capture prey. When the thousands of cells found on the tentacles come in contact with skin, it can feel like a mild stinging sensation or an intense bee sting depending on how a person’s body reacts to it, Levans said.
The tentacles can break off in the surf and still be a hazard for swimmers.
Few things stop the irritation. Washing the skin with hot, not scalding, water or vinegar can relieve some of the discomfort, she said.
Jellyfish are at the mercy of the current and can wash ashore, where they’ll die. But beware of even the dead ones because those stinging cells are still active.
“You want to stay clear of them,” Levans said.
Be the first to know
Get local news delivered to your inbox!