Invasion of the Jellyfish! Where to go to avoid them…

Jellyfish (also called nettles) are in the Chesapeake Bay, but not everywhere. The beautiful, but dangerous, creatures are found mainly the middle section of the Bay, where the water is saltiest.

When they show up varies from year to year.

They’re difficult to see. Jellyfish are typically, but not always, clear and they have long tentacles dangling as they pulsate through the murky Bay water.

You know when you come across one. First you’ll notice the tentacles; they feel like hair floating through the water. Then you feel the sting that doesn’t go away any time soon.

Chesapeake Bay jellyfish
Atlantic sea nettle: Chrysaora quinquecirrha (Courtesy the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science)

Once they arrive, they’re going to hang around until about October. In the Chesapeake Bay, you’ll most likely come across moon jellyfish — peaceful, pretty, blobby things floating around.

Moon jellies sting, but it’s small hurt.

Moon jelly fish are also common in the Chesapeake Bay, but they’re generally harmless to people. They have a wider bell and shorter tentacles. (Photo courtesy the Chesapeake Bay Program)

Salps don’t sting.

salp (tunicatesea squirt)
Salp (tunicatesea squirt) found in Ocean City & photographed by Karen Heck. Salps are firm but gelatinous. They also have a “primitive eye” that can be seen in this picture. (courtesy Assateague Island National Seashore)

Man of War nettles are big and pack a painful brush as they go by. But they stay typically in the ocean.

The government tries to figure out where they are and provides some prediction in this NOAA Sea Nettles Guidance chart.

NOAA actually has a sea nettle prediction website, but it’s usually out-of-service.

For a closer look, check out the data being filed from the area bouys.

Chesapeake Bay buoy information
Click on this image to go to the interactive NOAA chart of the Chesapeake Bay buoy system

The key to avoiding jellyfish is to find fresh water. There are several beaches just off the beaten path that are just out of jellyfish range. Privately-owned beaches in the briny Bay areas often surround the swimming area with nets protecting swimmers from stings.

Here are some mid to upper Chesapeake Bay beaches that are less briny or are surrounded by nets. Click on the pictures to learn more about the beach.

Breezy Point Beach Gunpowder Falls State Park beach Elk Neck Oxford Beach Tangier Island beach North Beach Matapeake public beach, Kent Island Betterton Beach
Breezy Point Beach has a net surrounding the swimming area to keep out nettles

What to Do When Stung by Jellyfish

If you get stung by a jellyfish, suggests liberally sprinkling a meat tenderizer or baking soda on the hurting area depending on what kind of jellyfish you came across. If that doesn’t work, it might have been a PhYsalia (a man-of-war). Try vinegar.

The only way to avoid getting stung in jellyfish-infested waters, according to the Chesapeake Bay Program, is by wearing a wetsuit or pantyhose.

But as for pantyhose in summer, even in the water…Yuck emoji

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