ENGLEWOOD — State rangers didn’t throw precaution to the wind when they flew a purple flag this week at Stump Pass State Beach State Park on Manasota Key.
Color-coded flags indicate beach conditions. A purple flag indicates that sea life may be hazardous to swimmers and beachgoers.
In this case, jellyfish floated too close to shore. Jellyfish generally are carried by currents close to Gulf beaches this time of year. They can wash up on the beach, sometimes in big numbers.
“Currently, Gasparilla Island State Park, Cayo Costa State Park and Stump Pass Beach State Park are flying a purple flag, denoting that stinging marine life — namely jellyfish — may be present in the waters,” said Alexandra Kuchta, deputy press secretary for the Florida Department of Environmental Protection.
It didn’t seem to deter beachgoers, who were plentiful at the beach Tuesday.
To greater or lesser degree, Mote Marine Laboratory’s daily beach condition reports at visitbeaches.org have cautioned beachgoers when jellyfish drift into shallow waters or wash onto Gulf beaches.
The reports Tuesday indicated “a few” jellyfish were reported in beaches throughout Sarasota County. However, the county beaches flew green flags, indicating low hazards and calm conditions.
“Based on what lifeguards have observed at Sarasota County beaches, there is not a significant number of jellyfish,” Sarasota County Emergency Management media relations officer Sara Nealeigh said Tuesday.
“If a significant number were to be observed, lifeguards will fly the appropriate flag,” Nealeigh said.
No jellyfish were reported a mile north of Stump Pass Beach at Charlotte County’s Englewood Beach either.
The local jellyfish “season” generally extends from late summer into early fall. Recent reports also tell of jellyfish inundating the waters of Atlantic beaches from Florida to the Carolinas and beyond.
In local waters, the moon jellyfish are common, so are nettle, comb and pink meanie jellyfish. The Atlantic sea nettle jellyfish — one of the most common jellyfish species found in the Gulf of Mexico — appear periodically in the shoreline waters of local beaches.
All jellyfish can “sting” from cells, called “cnidocytes,” on their tentacles that paralyze zooplankton and other prey. The intensity of the sting can vary immensely among the different species. Some stings are never felt.
The levels of discomfort or severity from those stings may vary from person to person. Moon jellyfish stings feel like having hot pepper juices splattered on your skin, while nettle stings feel much like a bee sting that might last 45 minutes to two hours.
If you do get stung, doctors recommend removing the stinger carefully with tweezers and soaking the stung area in hot water.