Man O Wars Are Washing Up On Delmarva Beaches

There have been several Man O Wars found on beaches from Ocean City Maryland to Rehoboth Beach int he past 24 hours.  Be careful and watch yourself in the water.  I was standing knee-deep in water yesterday, every time a wave came in and receded I watched my six to make sure nothing was going to run into my legs.  If you are doing beach clean ups wear gloves, pieces or remnants of their tentacles can still pack a powerful sting.  These Man O War were spotted after dark and are all missing their tentacles.   

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man o war, dewey beach, delaware sussex county
Man O War in Dewey Beach .. photo by Mary DiStefano Dunmyer

The Man O War is made up of 4 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.

Man O War in Ocean City .. photo by Angela Gamber

The treatment of 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.  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 left behind to fire and sting.  Vinegar is used on jellyfish stings to neutralize the toxin, but a Man O War is not a jellyfish and the toxins are much different.

Fish On!!

Rich King

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