"" Writer's Wanderings: Man O' War Beach Invasion

Friday, February 11, 2011

Man O' War Beach Invasion

Signs on the beach near our condo warn swimmers, "Beware the jellyfish." Our first day here in Tavernier, Florida, just south of Key Largo, we strolled the beach and wondered where in the world all the blue packing material had come from that washed up on shore. Bubbles of blue plastic popped loudly like bubble wrap when Bob stepped on them. Thankfully he had shoes on.

That evening on the Miami evening news show, we discovered that the blue "packing bubbles" were actually Portuguese Man O' War. While many call them jellyfish, they only resemble jellyfish in that they have tentacles extending from the inflated blue air bladder that floats on the surface of the water. Those tentacles carry a powerful sting. They are actually called a siphonophore and are a colony of rather than a single organism.

The Man O' War is not self propelled and is subject to the winds and currents of the ocean. February is the time of year they reach maturity and when the winds are right, the Florida beaches can be invaded. This year, we are told, they seem to be more plentiful than usual.

With winds out of the east/southeast, our beach and shoreline was full of the beautiful blue creatures. One morning we looked out from the beach to see what looked like an armada of tiny blue ships coming in.

Another afternoon, as we walked alond the marina, we saw a fish caught in the tentacles of a Man O' War. The fish was going into spasms as if it were electrocuted. We didn't wait around to see it digested.

Needless to say, the stings from these creatures are enough to scare anyone out of the water. That makes the beach a little less crowded but the pool really busy.

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