Thousands Stung By Bluebottles On Queensland Beaches Over The Weekend
More than 5000 people were stung by bluebottles on Queensland's Gold and Sunshine coasts over the weekend as weather drove a wall of jellyfish onto the shore.
Conditions eased on Monday, but remnants of the bluebottle armada (the correct term for a bunch of bluebottles) still dot the beaches and more than 200 people were treated for stings, mostly at the Sunshine Coast.
The latest figure for the weekend is almost double initial estimates released by Surf Life Saving Queensland and includes people treated by council lifeguards.
Across Queensland, but mostly in the southeast, 22,282 people sought treatment for bluebottle stings between December 1 and January 7, compared to 6831 in the same period last year.
That was a "hell of a lot" of people stung, Australian Marine Stinger Advisory Service director Lisa-ann Gershwin says.
"Wow, that is unusual," she said.
"The numbers I have seen published are 25,000 to 45,000 per year for the whole of Australia," Dr Gershwin said.
"Those figures, the 22,282, are for about five weeks and that's just one teeny tiny smidgin of Australia, so that is a lot."
Thousands were treated by lifesavers and several people reportedly suffered anaphylactic shock and were treated by paramedics.
In a matter of hours on Sunday, 476 bluebottle stings were treated on the Gold Coast and 461 on the Sunshine Coast.
Unusually strong northeasterly swell conditions pushed the bluebottles onshore.
What Do We Know About Bluebottles?
Sometimes confused with larger, more venomous Atlantic cousin, Physalia physalis (or Portuguese Man o' War), the common bluebottle is known as Physalia utriculus.
Gershwin said the striking blue jellyfish lived in armadas in the middle of the ocean and had trailing tentacles and a keel-like crest that acts like a sail.
"When you look at a bluebottle, and you see the bubble and the blue fringes and the long blue tentacles, that is actually a colony, that is not an individual," he said.
"Those colonies also live in these armadas - sort of a population of the colonies - in the middle of the open ocean."
The float, or sac, supports the colony and can grow up to 15cm.
Where Do They Live?
Bluebottle armadas travel the ocean's surface at the mercy of wind.
They are most prevalent in sub-tropical regions but sometimes turn up en masse in North Queensland.
Generally, though, large armadas can be found along beaches on the Gold Coast, around Sydney and Perth, and across Tasmania.
"Bluebottles have definitely been fairly active lately, pretty much throughout southeast Queensland," Gershwin said.
"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."