Bluebottle Jellyfish

Bluebottle jellyfish can be found on our beaches.

If you lived or stayed long enough on some of eastern Australian beaches, and if you enjoy to visit the beach often
like me, then you know what I am talking about.

There can be long periods of time with no bluebottle in sight, but every so often there is a day when the beach is covered in dead blue bottle jellyfish.

Like many other Australian jellyfish, they give you a painful sting with possible other health complications, and that still works, even up to a few days, after the animal died.

If you were up to a barefeet beach walk you may want to go and get your shoes, or else you will have to watch your every step, because once you saw a few of them washed up on the beach, there will be a lot more of them.


They always occur in large groups and whether they get washed up on the beach depends on the time of the year as well as the strength and direction of the winds, tides and currents.

They don't drift under the water surface - they float on the surface of the water, and sail with the winds.

That is only one thing that makes them different from proper jellyfish.

That's right - bluebottle is not proper jellyfish, and therefore, jellyfish treatment such as vinegar is not only useless - pouring vinegar on your wounds actually makes things worse.

What Are They?

They are not only different from proper jellyfish, but also most other animals.

Bluebottle jellyfish is not a single organism, but instead, in a similar way to corals and sea anemones, it consists of many different individuals, so called polyps, which do depend on each other for survival.

Each polyp have their own role - some make up the tentacles that are used in defence and catching and killing the prey. Others make up the reproductive and digestive system, and yet others make up the air filled sac that enables the animal float on the surface of the water, with tentacles hanging down in the water.

blue bottle

Where Are They Found?

In Australia, we are so used to the dangerous animals that are found nowhere else in the world, that it never crosses most of our minds that this creature, for a change, is also found in a lot of ocean and sea waters in the rest of the world. But it does like the warmer - tropical and subtropical waters.

In the rest of the world it is called Portuguese Man of War, and it is known to be found in marine waters of
south and west Africa, the Mediterranean, Gulf of Mexico, west coast of Florida, Gulf of California, and Hawaiian islands.

And in Australia, it is much more common on the east coast than in the south or west, although they do turn up there too.

Sting and Venom

The tentacles of the bluebottle jellyfish are constantly fishing for food in the water, and the poison they carry is used for killing the prey.

The tentacles can be up to 30 metres long, and if you happen to be in its way you will get stung too.

The tentacles will attach themselves to your body, leaving red marks that last for a few days.

bluebottle jellyfish

The tentacles have small firing cells that inject poison into you.

The poison first causes severe, sharp pain that normally lasts for about a hour.

After that it turns to a joint ache.

In some cases, further complications such as vomiting, nausea, headache, breathing difficulties, shock, fever, muscle cramps, or back and abdominal pain may develop.

A sting can also cause an allergic reaction.

Obviously children, old people, and people with allergies are at a higher risk for complications.

blue bottle jellyfish


First, get out of the water and try getting the tentacles off you without touching them with your fingers.

Pour salt water on the wounds.

Then pour hot water on the woulds - it defuses the poison.

Do not pour vinegar,
it will only fire more stinging cells that will release more poison (vinegar is an excellent means for box jellyfish and irukandji stings but not bluebottle).

Do not rub the affected area - again it only releases more poison.

Ice packs can be used to reduce pain.

If the pain lasts much longer than a hour, or you get a reaction of any other kind, you should seek medical attention.

No bluebottle fatalities have been confirmed in Australia but up to 30,000 stings a year are reported, most on the eastern coast of the country.

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