Jellyfish you’ll see at the Delaware beaches and what to do if stung


Nothing can ruin a day at the beach like a jellyfish sting.

The ocean is home to more than 1,000 species, both beautiful and terrifying. Keith Baiha and Allen Collins say they can be seen along Delaware beaches this time of year because the water is warm and food is plentiful.

Baiha and Collins are researchers at the Smithsonian Institution. Baija earned his PhD at the University of Delaware in Lewes and spent many years studying jellyfish on the Delaware coast. Collins is a curator and research zoologist at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Beiha and Collins say that while jellyfish are just a nuisance to most people, they are extremely important ecologically. They are food for many species and are an important part of the carbon cycle, which moves carbon from shallow to deep oceans.

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The jellyfish you’re most likely to encounter along Delaware beaches are so small and their stings are so mild that you probably won’t notice them, but these are the larger species you’re most likely to see. said Baiha and Collins.

  • Atlantic Sea Nettle: A large, white jellyfish that sometimes has stripes or spots on its bell. It is found in seawater and has large stings on its long tentacles.

  • Bay nettle: A much smaller version of the sea nettle, this jellyfish is found only in estuarine waters such as Rehoboth Bay and the Indian River. It has fewer tentacles than sea nettles, and its sting is slightly less painful.

  • Moon jellyfish: A large, transparent jellyfish with four white circles in the middle of the bell. Their tentacles are very small and the sting is less serious and more of an annoyance. It is mainly found in oceans and estuaries.

  • Crystal jelly: These sea jellyfish have the appearance of a flat disc, much like the bottom of a glass soda bottle. Their stings are minor.
  • Sea walnut: They are not jellyfish but ctenophores and are very common off the coast of Delaware in the summer. Although much smaller than the jellyfish on this list, it is the largest animal that uses cilia for locomotion. It doesn’t sting.

  • Lion’s Mane Jellyfish: A large red jellyfish with hundreds of relatively short tentacles. He’s the second most painful blow on this list after Portugal’s war fighters.

  • Portuguese military: It’s not a jellyfish, but a rare hydrozoan. They float on the surface with blue-purple floats, and their sting is one of the worst in U.S. waters. If found in Delaware waters, it was likely carried from a distance by the wind. Several ships were washed ashore in 2015.

Jellyfish stings occur when microscopic cnidocytes fire venomous barbs into a person’s skin, Baiha and Collins said. However, not all cells ignite, and those that do not ignite must be immediately washed away with salt water. Do not use fresh water as this may cause the cell to catch fire. Urine is also ineffective and should not be used.

Baiha and Collins said they found that using vinegar to immobilize the sting cells and treating lingering sting pain with boiling water was most effective.

Shannon Marvel McNaught reports on Sussex County and surrounding areas. Contact us at or on Twitter @MarvelMcNaught.

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