The venomous Portuguese man o’ war has been spotted in growing numbers at beaches all along the east coast, from North Carolina to New York.
“Felt like a thousand bees stinging me at once,” said Michael Schanz, 7, who was stung by one at a Long Island beach, 10 News ABC reported.
Schanz was one of three children reportedly stung by the jellyfish-like creature at Long Island beaches in a week.
The man o’ war has earned the nickname floating death and has tentacles which can grow up to 30 feet in length. Rather than a single living thing, the creature is actually a colony made up of organisms called zooids which are physically connected together.
“They can really hurt,” Frank Lepore, a Senior Chief Lifeguard, said. “Possibly kill a kid, it can put them into anaphylactic [shock].”
At least six were seen at Rightsville Beach, North Carolina, according to a witness who spoke to WWBT.
Even if one is spotted lying on the beach, experts advise that they be left alone. They can sting even if they are dead, 10 News reported.
“It’s a nasty, nasty sting. It’s by far the most toxic of our local jellyfish,” Charles Epifanio, from the University of Delaware, said to Delaware First Media. At least three man o’ wars have been sighted off the Delaware coast.
“The way stinging works, there are individual cells on the tentacles that have pneumatosis in them. They’re like little harpoons that inject venom. When you disturb the cell, the cell ruptures and the pneumatosis releases the harpoon,” Epifanio added.
It is believed that warmer tides, together with a strong easterly wind, have brought the creatures closer to the shore than usual.
If you are stung by one, the recommendation is to wash the affected area with sea water.