Every summer there seems to be another thing to worry about at the beach, most notably in recent years, shark attacks have been the main concern. There’s something else to watch out for, howeve. Beware of a poisonous creature you might come into contact with: the Portuguese Man-O-War. Most specifically, the Myrtle Beach, South Carolina area have seen many Portuguese Man-O-Wars along the shore, according to officials.
The Myrtle Beach Fire Rescue took to Facebook to provide beachgoers and tourists with some information about the potential risks of encountering Portuguese Man-O-Wars. They should be avoided at all costs, as stepping on one or touching its tentacles can give the recipient an excrutiating sting.
Additionally, the Myrtle Beach Fire Rescue explains: “As the city reported earlier this week we have had reports of Man-O-Wars on our shores. This Man-O-War washed up on our shores on the north end of the beach. If you see these creatures lying on the beach please do not touch them. Please inform the lifeguard services or one of our beach patrols and we will make sure that it gets disposed of properly. As always be aware of your surroundings at the beach and stay safe out there!”
The South Carolina Department of Natural Resources further explains that “a washed up man-of-war on the beach (even if it looks dried out) remains highly venomous: it should be treated respectfully and care should be taken to avoid touching the tentacles.”
The South Carolina Department of Natural Resources also explained that a Man-O-War is not a “true jellyfish” nor a “single animal” rather it is a “colony of numerous organisms called polyps (or zooids) that are so specialized that they cannot live without each other.”
Last year, the Man-O-Wars made headlines in the Tybee Island, Georgia area, with one news piece calling them a “floating terror,” adding they have “one of the most painful stings in the sea.” According to that report, “the Portugese Man-O-War can’t move on its own; it moves according to the winds, current, and tides. Also known as ‘floating terror,’ the Man-O-War looks like a jellyfish, but it’s not. It’s made up of four animals that work together.”
The creatures travel in pods of 1,000 and have tentacles that range in size from 30-feet-long to 165 feet long.
Tybee Island Marine Science Center Program Director Beth Pallmer said at the time: “They are definitely native to our coast, but they are also an off shore species, so they are mainly on the open ocean. It’s only when we have strong wind and waves, is when they get pushed ashore.”
Among the many comments on social media was one person who shared their own very painful experience with Man-O-Wars, noting: “I was stung by one in Florida in 1958 and can attest to its toxicity — suffered excruciating pain in my ‘tail bone’ area for hours!!!! This species was a vertical sail along its upper length — very very nasty!”
Others, however, agreed with this commenter: “People. God did not make the ocean for us to play in. He made it for sea creatures to live in. Leave them alone and stay out of their habitat.”