Bluebottle jellyfish: Thousands of Queensland beachgoers stung

A Blue Bottle Jellyfish at Pakiri Beach

Swarms of bluebottles have caused beaches to be closed in Queensland. Getty

Surf Life Saving Queensland said a "whopping" 3,595 people were stung over the weekend by Portuguese man o' war jellyfish, also known as bluebottles due to their transparent blue appearance.

Conditions eased on Monday, but remnants of the bluebottle armada (the correct term for a bunch of bluebottles) still dot the beaches and more than 200 people were treated for stings, mostly at the Sunshine Coast. Blue Bottle Jellyfish Stings More Than 50 Tourists on Mumbai's Aksa and Girgaum Beaches.

Bluebottle invasion. Picture: Bob Barker.

Swimmers are not the only ones at risk from the jellyfish stranded on the shore, but also beachgoers taking a walk in the sand.

Surf Life Saving Queensland issued a "major bluebottle warning" and a spokesperson said that if stung, remove stingers, take a very hot shower and apply ice. "Don't pick it up, don't walk on it or you will be stung".

Stings from these box jellyfish - which can be smaller than a finger nail - can cause acute muscular pain, violent vomiting, feelings of "impending doom", hair that stands on end, strokes, heart failure and death within minutes.

It is less straightforward to treat stings from the fearsome Irukandji variety of jellyfish, however.

They are most prevalent in sub-tropical regions but sometimes turn up en masse in North Queensland.

"They are also appearing at beaches in New South Wales, Victoria and Tassie - we've been getting them in a lot of places".

While researchers are still examining how much recent heat waves may have contributed to the current jellyfish bloom off Australia's coasts, they can already say with certainty how they got to the beaches: Unusually strong north-easterly winds pushed the bluebottles onshore and they are clumped in their thousands along the shoreline.

"A bluebottle has that sail that sticks up so the wind grabs the sail and drives them ashore", she told the BBC.

"It's nature's way of making sure the population never becomes extinct".

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