With warmer weather coming many of you will be heading for the beaches, and the chances are you could come across jellyfish where you paddle. So we’ve put together a list of 5 commonly found jellyfish you may come across around the UK coastline and how to identify them. And yes, we will tell you which ones can sting and what to do if stung! So welcome to our jellyfish ID parade along with top tips to avoid a nasty sting this summer…
Jellyfish where you paddle | Our top 5 spots!
Moons are the most common jellyfish in UK seas, often washing up on our beaches. The good news is you have no need to worry as their sting is very mild and in most instances cannot be felt through our skin. You may feel their sting in sensitive areas like your eyes.
Location: Found all around the UK coastline throughout the year.
How to identify: Look for a round, dome-shaped jelly, translucent with four purple circular markings around the centre. Moon jellyfish are usually floating just below the surface of the water.
Barrel jellyfish are the UK’s largest jellyfish with the ability to grow to the size of dustbin lids, giving them their other common name dustbin-lid jellyfish. These jellyfish often swarm in warmer coastal waters in late spring and often wash up on our beaches in May and June, sometimes in their hundreds!
The good news is the sting of the barrel jellyfish is not normally harmful to us, though they can still sting when dead so please avoid handling if you find one on the beach.
Location: Found off off Southern and Western coasts in summer months.
How to identify: When identifying a barrel jelly you will want to spot a large ghostly white translucent jellyfish with a huge mushroom shaped bell and a bunch of 8 frilly oral arms below.
This summer visitor to our shores may look beautiful but they give a nasty string so make sure to keep your distance. Also once they have stung something, they often leave the tentacle behind which can continue to sting even when not connected to their body.
Location: Found off the Southern and Western coasts during the summer months.
How to identify: The compass jellyfish is easily identifiable as its brown markings located on top of their bell resembles a compass. If the markings are not easily visible then you can identify as by seeing if it is a translucent yellowish-white colour with a bunch of frilled oral arms below the bell and long thin marginal tentacles around the friend of the bell.
Lion’s Mane jellyfish
Lion’s Mane jellyfish are beautiful but their tentacles have a bite of a lion so keep your distance! Plus, detached fragments of their tentacles will sting long after they’ve been on the shore so again please be cautious.
Location: Found off all UK coasts during the summer months.
How to identify: You are looking to spot a translucent brown to reddish jellyfish. It’s name comes from having a thick mane of hundreds of long flowing hair-like tentacles that surround the bell which can measure up to 3m in length. Beneath the bell they also have thick, frilled oral arms, most often brownish in colour.
Until the Blue jellyfish matures it is often easily confused with the large Lion’s Mane jellyfish but once matured this jellyfish is absolutely stunning. Admire from a distance and certainly do not handle as it does pack a sting.
Location: Found off all UK coasts throughout the summer and autumn months
How to identify: As the blue jellyfish matures its bell goes from being a pale yellow to developing a striking blue-purple bell. Be careful as this translucent purple colouring can make them difficult to spot in the water so just have your eyes peeled, especially if there has been some local reports of them being in or around the water.
Emily Baxter, Senior Marine Conservation Officer, North West Wildlife Trusts, says,
“Jellyfish are fascinating creatures that are found all over the world – including in freshwater as well as our oceans. They have also been in existence for hundreds of millions of years, making them the oldest animal group on the planet!
“As you would with your elders, it’s important to treat jellyfish with respect. Though many are harmless, some species – such as lion’s mane – can give you a nasty sting if you get too close. It’s good practice to learn about the different kinds of jellyfish so you know when you might be at risk though, as a rule, we’d always advise to try and keep your distance.”
The Wildlife Trusts have launched a £30 million appeal to kickstart nature’s recovery across 30% of land and sea by 2030. Find out more here.
So, all this is great… but what I really want to know is, what do I do if I do get stung this summer?
Well the NHS currently* recommends the following treatment if you come into contact with jellyfish where you paddle…
- rinse the affected area with seawater (not fresh water)
- remove any spines from the skin using tweezers or the edge of a bank card
- soak the area in very warm water (as hot as can be tolerated) for at least 30 minutes – use hot flannels or towels if you cannot soak it
- take painkillers like paracetamol or ibuprofen
- We would also recommend not touching your face or rubbing your eyes until you have finished treating the stings and thoroughly washed your hands with warm soapy water.
The NHS currently* recommends that you DO NOT…
- use vinegar
- pee on the sting (thank Chandler Bing for this one!)
- apply ice or a cold pack
- touch any spines with your bare hands
- cover or close the wound
If symptoms become more severe, or a sensitive part of the body has been stung, you should seek medical help.
Hopefully that doesn’t stop you from paddling in the sea this year, but it’s always better to be prepared than not, right!? Have you already seen any of these jellyfish where you paddle? Let us know on Instagram @GoPaddling
If you’re new to paddling on the sea, make sure you check out our beginners top tips here!
And remember, we’re sharing the space with wild animals where-ever we paddle. Remember to share the space and look after the animals and environment in which you’re paddling. Find out more about sharing the space here.
*NHS recommended treatment as of May 2021 – https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/jellyfish-and-other-sea-creature-stings/