I’m guilty of the crime. In 2004, on vacation at the time in Key Colony Beach, I found a Portugese man o’ war siphonophore (this isn’t a jellyfish) washed up on the beach. I tossed the ocean wonder into a styrofoam cup and posed for this photo op on the private beach at Glunz Ocean Beach Hotel & Resort. The tourists mingling at the bar at what is now Havana Jack’s Oceanside wanted to know what kind of drink garnish I had.
The tentacles contain stinging nematocysts, microscopic capsules loaded with coiled, barbed tubes that deliver venom capable of paralyzing and killing small fish and crustaceans. While the man o’ war’s sting is rarely deadly to people, it packs a painful punch and causes welts on exposed skin, NOAA
I just returned from another South Florida vacation and a group sitting next to us on the beach had a bucket with one of these ocean beauties and its long strands of tentacles floating atop the saltwater. They told me they didn’t want the children to get stung, and they are correct. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration beachcombers need to beware: a man o’ war can still sting for weeks after being washed ashore. For those of you planning a beach vacation remember the life and wonder that surrounds you is best viewed in the water with a mask and snorkel. If you’re fascinated consider a snorkel trip or SCUBA certification to view the marvels at the reefs.