Venomous Portuguese men-of-war invade NC beach. Even the dead ones sting, cops warn

Venomous Portuguese men-of-war invade NC beach. Even the dead ones sting, cops warn
The town of Emerald Isle posted photos this week of Portuguese men-of-war showing up on beaches. (Town of Emerald Isle photo)

CHARLOTTE, NC (Mark Price/Charlotte Observer) - Some popular North Carolina beaches have been strewn with venomous Portuguese men-of-war in recent days, prompting a warning from the town of Emerald Isle that even the corpses are a hazard.

“We are seeing Portuguese man-of-war along the beach strand,” said the town’s Facebook post, which included photos of the creatures dotting the beach. “So when you’re out walking our beautiful beach, do not touch or step on these creatures as they can still be harmful.”

Portuguese men-of-war are often mistaken for jellyfish, floating on the surface of the ocean with a capacity to sting, according to the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources. They have thread-like tendrils that can trail 165 feet out from the creature’s bulb-like body, reports UntamedScience.com.

The tentacles “are covered in venom-filled (cells) used to paralyze and kill fish and other small creatures,” reports NationalGeographic.com.

“For humans, a man-of-war sting is excruciatingly painful, but rarely deadly. But beware—even dead man-of-wars washed up on shore can deliver a sting,” says the site.

One photo posted by Emerald Isle Police on Facebook showed 17 of the sea creatures dotting a few feet of beach. The photos have been shared more than 1,400 times in the past day.

Commenters on Facebook noted men-of-war had been floating ashore for more than a week, including sightings at Atlantic Beach and Topsail Beach.

Men-of-war are often mistaken for jellyfish, which were blamed for stinging more than 700 people one weekend last August in the waters near Charleston according to the Charleston Post & Courier.

At least one the 100-plus commenters on Emerald Isle’s Facebook post was a man who wanted to know if he could save the men of war by throwing them back in the ocean -- something police were warning against.

“I thought these were plastic trash and picked up a ton to throw away, thinking I was cleaning up the beach,” posted Karyn Honigford. “Glad I did not get hurt!”

“These things are no joke!” wrote Katie Richards on the town’s Facebook page. “One got me over the summer, most painful sting ever followed by a week of severe itching!”

“A dead one washed over my foot a few years ago while walking along the water’s edge,” posted Samantha Rochelle. “Full on 24 hours of the worst pain ever.”

We are seeing Portuguese Man-of-War along the beach strand... So when you’re out walking our beautiful beach, do not touch or step on these creatures as they can still be harmful.

Posted by Emerald Isle Police Department on Wednesday, January 9, 2019