Washing up this summer on the East Coast: Portuguese man-of-wars

Posted at 5:23 PM, Jul 08, 2015
and last updated 2015-07-08 17:25:10-04

Virginia Beach, Va. (WTKR) - In a summer where ocean headlines have been dominated by shark bites, something else is starting to make an appearance: Portuguese man-of wars.

So far there have been reports of the creatures washing up in New York, New Jersey and North Carolina.

Common in the tropics, the creatures are occasionally carried northward thanks to ocean currents and winds and have washed up before in Virginia Beach.

"We do see them periodically from summer to summer and it all has to do with ocean currents and wind currents. Sometimes they will be captured and brought in close to shore here, as far north as New York," Virginia Aquarium and Marine Science Center Senior Curator Beth Firchau told NewsChannel 3's Todd Corillo Wednesday.

Unlike a common jellyfish sting, being stung by a Portuguese man-o-war can be excruciatingly painful.

"The sting of a Portuguese man-of-war can take down an average size man so you really want to stay clear of them even when they are on the beach. The stinging cells of the tentacles of this animal can be quite painful and give you quite a surprise if you touch them even if they’ve been on the beach for a while," Firchau stated.

While they can grow very large at sea, most that wash up on the beach end up being smaller.

"The ones that we see here wash ashore are typically about the size of your hand. The float is about the size of the hand."