Sunday, December 10, 2023

Beware the Yorktown jellyfish — and don’t pee on the wound if you get stung

It’s that time of the year again: beach season.

But in Yorktown, at the white, sandy beach, it’s also jellyfish season.

At the beginning of July, York County put out an alert to the public on social media, warning residents and guests of the likelihood of contact with jellyfish — some of which are known as sea nettles — in the York River. 

The Visit Yorktown page sent out another jellyfish reminder Tuesday with photos of jellyfish spotted near the Riverwalk Landing piers. 

“If you’re swimming at the beach, be sure to keep an eye out,” a page administrator wrote in the post.

According to the Virginia Institute of Marine Science, jellyfish are a common animal found in the Chesapeake Bay and nearby coastal waters. They are especially prevalent in the summertime. 

Jellyfish are slow-moving and weak animals, but use their stinging tentacles to capture their prey.

The tentacles are covered with stinging cells that release “harpoon-like” structures carrying venom. The stinging cells can still continue to fire the little harpoons after they are detached from the jellyfish, according to VIMS.

Stinging sea nettles are often the culprit of stings at the beach. 

Sea nettles often congregate where flotsam might collect, along windward shorelines or where a floodtide hits an obstacle. 

Swimmers can protect themselves by wearing tight clothing and covering exposed areas with petroleum jelly. Swimming earlier or later in the season, or in freshwater or the ocean, will also help swimmers avoid stings. Sea nettles tend to stay within brackish water, like at Yorktown Beach.

Still, some beachgoers will still end up getting stung by a sea nettle or jellyfish.

In that case, VIMS advises against the popular opinion of urinating on the sting. Pain can also be exacerbated by pouring deionized water, meat tenderizer, ethanol and vinegar on the wound.

Those who have been stung should remove the jellyfish tentacles from their skin and clothing using tweezers, then apply baking soda.

VIMS also has a way to report jellyfish sightings on its website. 

JellyWatch is a free public service app that VIMS has partnered with to track jellyfish and other marine animals. Reporting is easy and does not require an account.

JellyWatch is available for both iPhone and Android. 

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration also has an experimental map to depict the probability of encountering a sea nettle in Eastern Virginia. 

The map shows the area around Yorktown has a high probability of sea nettles.

Sarah Fearing
Sarah Fearing
Sarah Fearing is the Assistant Editor at WYDaily. Sarah was born in the state of Maine, grew up along the coast, and attended college at the University of Maine at Orono. Sarah left Maine in October 2015 when she was offered a job at a newspaper in West Point, Va. Courts, crime, public safety and civil rights are among Sarah’s favorite topics to cover. She currently covers those topics in Williamsburg, James City County and York County. Sarah has been recognized by other news organizations, state agencies and civic groups for her coverage of a failing fire-rescue system, an aging agriculture industry and lack of oversight in horse rescue groups. In her free time, Sarah enjoys lazing around with her two cats, Salazar and Ruth, drinking copious amounts of coffee and driving places in her white truck.

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