The bluebottle jellyfish is a common visitor to the area, and according to some sources, about 10-30,000 stings each year are reported along the east coast of Australia.
The bluebottle is commonly referred to as a jellyfish, but it is not actually a jellyfish, it is actually a colony of organisms called siphonophores. These creatures are bonded for survival, and together they are able to survive.
Alone these creatures cannot survive on their own. They have a float, which is where the colony received its namesake because it appears to be a blue bottle floating atop the sea. This float or bottle is actually how most of these creatures move about the ocean. The float is caught by the wind, and it takes the bluebottle colony with it.
Bluebottle Invasion Theory
Some scientists believe that the outbreaks of bluebottles are due to climate change. With stronger winds, the wind can pick up and carry more bluebottles to the Australian coastline. Stronger winds and storms have been suggested to be due to global climate change.
Bluebottle Sting Treatment
While many outside of Australia may not have heard of the bluebottle they may have heard of its cousin, the Portuguese Man o’War. While they are similar, they are luckily very different as well. The bluebottle is not nearly as venomous as the Man o’War. The bluebottle is also smaller. While being stung by a bluebottle is painful, it is rarely deadly unless you are a fish!
When a victim cannot determine if they have just been stung by a bluebottle or a Portuguese man o’ War it is suggested that they treat it as though it was a sting of the more venomous of the two, but soaking the sting in vinegar. To treat a bluebottle sting it is recommended to rinse with salt water and then apply heat, if heat is not available, an ice pack. The pain from the sting should subside within a few hours.
Economic Effect of the Bluebottle Invasion
In the midst of the Australian summer, many beaches are being closed due to the extremely high number of reported bluebottle stings, which has forced many people to change their vacation or weekend getaway plans. While no true numbers are being reported, anytime a beach is closed, it will affect the economy around it. Restaurants, hotels, and shops will all feel the subsequent sting from this bluebottle invasion during their peak seasons for tourists.
Avoidance is the easiest way to steer clear of the bluebottles at this point. If you don’t go into the water you probably won’t get stung. Pay attention to where you are walking on the beach and other areas. If it looks like a bluebottle it is best to avoid it. If you are set on going into the water, choose beaches that are open and being checked by lifesavers for water safety.
They will mark off areas they deem ‘safe’ but if you go into the water there is a chance you might get stung. Try taking a dip in a local pool instead of the sea, and you can cool off in the summer heat and not have to worry about getting stung and having it ruin your weekend or vacation.
In conclusion, the bluebottle jellyfish, while not as dangerous as its cousin, the Portuguese Man o’ War, is a significant concern along the east coast of Australia. With climate change potentially contributing to an increase in bluebottle invasions, it is crucial to understand how to treat a sting and practice avoidance to minimize the risk. By being mindful of your surroundings and choosing beaches with lifeguards on duty, you can still enjoy the beauty of Australia’s coastline while minimizing the risk of an unpleasant encounter.
Furthermore, the impact of bluebottle invasions on local economies underscores the need for ongoing research and management strategies to protect both the marine ecosystem and coastal communities. As a visitor, consider supporting local businesses and exploring alternative activities like swimming in pools to ensure your trip is both enjoyable and safe.