Lifeguards along Palm Beach County’s coast are warning of the presence of Portuguese man-o-war, the purple jelly-fish like creatures that float along like a poisonous balloon on the high seas.
From November to April the critters can usually be found along area beaches, washing ashore with tentacles that can be more than 100-feet long. Even dead, the stingers on man-o-war can be active, wrapping around the ankles of people strolling on the beach who are caught unaware by a rogue wave.
The Portuguese man-o-war is not a jellyfish, but a siphonophore – a colony of many minute individual animals that are attached to one another and incapable of independent survival.
National Geographic describes the man-o-war’s gas-filled bladder as resembling an “old warship at full sail.”
The sting is described as feeling similar to multiple bee stings and can linger longer than the common jellyfish.
Man-o-war have no independent means of propulsion, drifting at the whim of Mother Nature. In South Florida, they are often blown ashore by strong southeast winds, such as the ones the region has experienced from the high pressure system parked to the east of the state.