Man O Wars Washing Up On Delaware Beaches


Man O war at Fenwick Island, delaware, sussex county, beaches,
Man O war at Fenwick Island today

Today I was checking the drive on accesses at Fenwick Island, they all look good by the way.  Faithful Steward is still closed in DSSP.  There was a bunch of debris covering most of the beach to the dunes.  The higher tides from the wind are pushing a lot of junk into our beaches.  I found a Man O War sitting just in front of the drive on entrance.  Then there were a couple more farther down the beach.  When I stopped by Tower Beach in DSSP just to randomly look, there was one every twenty feet laying in the surf line where the tide was pushing up debris and foam.  They look like a pile of colorful snot, with a piece of blown up plastic on top, or just a long line of purple snot with a blob on the end.  I warned some folks walking bare foot towards the beach with their dog to watch their step.  They went back to the car and decided to go elsewhere.  There is a lot of debris on the beaches, be careful walking and driving.  It is a beach combers paradise right now, especially after low tide.  Just be careful what you grab, those tendrils can get on anything.


Man O War in Delaware, sussex county, delaware seashore state park,conquest, tower road
Man O War strewn in a line with the float popped.

The Man O’ War is made up of four separate polyps.  The upper most polyp is a gas-filled bladder or pneumatophore, which sits above the water and acts as a sail.  The bladder resembles an old warship at full sail, hence the name Man O War.  Tentacles hang below the bladder, at average  lengths of thirty feet,  but can get as long as one hundred and sixty feet.  These are composed of independent cells that work as a colony.  The stinging cells or nematocysts kill small fish and crustaceans.  Muscles in the tentacles move the prey up to a polyp containing the gastrozooids or digestive organisms. A fourth polyp contains the reproductive organisms.  Once detached the nematocysts or stinging cells are still active for quite some time.  The sting is not deadly to humans but is very painful.


Delaware seashore state park, man o war, sussex county,
Man O War on Beach at Tower Road in Delaware Seashore State Park
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Matt Adams was finding lots of Velella or sailer jellies on Dewey Beach yesterday.  Coincidentally last year on October 5th DSF published an article about Man O War washing up on the beaches that day in 2015.  Be careful walking the beaches and wading to fish or surf.  There are tendrils or tentacles not attached to the sail on the Man O war.  These can still sting you severely, and the treatment of these stings is not like a normal jellyfish.  Avoid further contact with the Portuguese Man O War and remove remnants of the organism from the skin.  Do not touch them directly, to avoid secondary stings, use gloves or tweezers.  Apply saltwater to the affected area, fresh water will further aggravate the affected area and make it worse.  Follow up the saltwater wash with hot water (113 degrees Fahrenheit) this will ease the pain better than cold water.

fenwick island, man owar, delaware, sussex county
Man O War on Fenwick Island this morning. Look at all the colors.

If the eyes have been affected irrigate them with room temperature water, copious amounts of water are recommended to fully flush the eyes and then seek medical attention as soon as possible.  Do not use vinegar on a Man O War sting, it will increase the toxin delivery and even cause any nematocysts (stinging cells) left behind to fire and sting.  Vinegar is used on jellyfish stings to neutralize the toxin, but a Mon O War is not a jellyfish and the toxins are much different.

Make sure your kids don’t touch anything that look like colorful balloons floating in the water or laying on the ground. These creatures literally look like plastic wildly colored blow up tows.  Be care ful swimming especially going under water.  The loose tendrils can get you right in the face.  It will be better to wait a few days for the weather and water to calm down before swimming.

Fish On!!

Rich King

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Velella washed up on Dewey Beach, also known as Sailer Jellies … Photo by Matt Adams


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