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Are Jellyfish In Destin?

There are jellyfish in all oceans, in great numbers, and the southeastern coast of America is no stranger to hosting jellyfish, specifically, the Florida panhandle.

You will find that you have a good chance you might share your Destin beach experience with jellyfish. Chances are you won’t have an issue at all, but, some can cause injury so let’s find out which ones are safe to touch.

Are Jellyfish in Destin?

Yes, like most beaches, the Destin and Florida Panhandle beaches have various types of jellyfish including moon jellyfish and cannonball jellyfish, and a few others. Some can be toxic if you are stung, so check the tips from the experts in this article so you are prepared.

When visiting Destin, the chances are good that your path will cross with a jellyfish.

Some of the species you can encounter include the Moon, Cannonball, Portuguese Man of War (Bluebottle), Atlantic Sea nettle, and the Pink Meanie jellyfish.

All of them are capable of stinging.

Most jellyfish found in Destin can deliver a sting that can result in an inflammatory reaction.

Some stings (Moon jellyfish) will result in a barely noticeable tingling sensation, whereas other stings (Man of War, Pink Meanie, and Atlantic Sea nettle) can be very painful.

What Type Of Jellyfish Is Found In Destin?

There are numerous types of jellyfish that you will find when spending time on Destin’s beaches.

Most jellyfish are harmless, but some will cause painful injury in the form of a burning sensation and inflammatory reaction when they sting you.

Jellyfish activity is mostly spotted between May to October. Some species do appear during the colder winter months, as jellyfish numbers are escalating at alarming rates.

Here are some of the species that you can expect to see when in Destin:

Moon Jellyfish (Aurelia aurita)

Moon jellyfish is practically see-through, with only four horseshoe-shaped gonads that can be viewed through the top of its ball. They go by the following names:

  • Common Jellyfish
  • Moon Jelly
  • Saucer Jelly

The Moon jellyfish uses its nematocyst tentacles to catch its prey, tie them with a bit of mucus, and digestive enzymes break down the food as it’s brought to the gastrovascular cavity.

Moon jellies prey on the following:

  • Medusae
  • Crustaceans
  • Rotifers
  • Plankton
  • Mollusks
  • Fish Eggs
  • Tunicate Larvae

Moon jellyfish are poor swimmers, their motion is limited, and they are generally left at the mercy of a sea current regarding where they end up.

‘Moonies’ can survive up to 6 months in the wild and for several years in an aquarium.

The following sea creatures love to snack on Moon jellies:

  • Ocean Sunfish (Mola Mola)
  • Leatherback Sea Turtle
  • Sea Birds
  • Other Jellyfish

Getting stung by a Moon jellyfish:

  • It can result in skin irritation for some but are relatively harmless when touched.

Cannonball Jellyfish (Stomolophus Meleagris)

A Cannonball jellyfish’s bell closely resembles a cannonball, or cabbage head, hence their names.

Cannonball jellyfish that make their way to Destin can display a brown pigment on the rim, whereas Cannonball jellyfish found in the opposite Pacific Ocean can display a blue pigment.

The bell of a Cannonball jellyfish can reach 10-inches in diameter, and underneath you will find a bundle of extended oral arms around the mouth area, which helps with the following:

  • Propulsion
  • Catching Prey

Cannonball jellyfish secretes saliva that contains toxins from their nematocyst when hunting or as a defense mechanism when disturbed. 

Getting stung by a Cannonball jellyfish:

  • It can cause a minor tingly sensation when touched. A worst-case scenario is a slightly itchy skin.
  • The toxin that Cannonball jellyfish release can be harmful to your eyes, leading to minor eye irritation.
  • Some people can have a different reaction when making contact with a nematocyst, which could result in redness and swelling.

These jellyfish are well-known across the eastern seaboard, and from September to April, they make up 16% of the biomass in the bay and other shallow coastal areas.

These include the shores of the Gulf coast.

Atlantic Sea Nettle (Chrysaora quinquecirrha) 

As the name suggests, the Atlantic Sea nettle inhabits the Atlantic coasts of the US.

Also known as the East Coast Sea nettle, they are normally found in a range of the following colors:

  • Pale
  • Yellowish
  • Gold
  • Pinkish
  • Semi-transparent (small white dots and reddish-brown stripes)

These jellyfish will feature more illuminated colored stripes on the exumbrella, making them easily distinguishable from other species.

The medusa (Invertebrate body type) of an Atlantic Sea nettle can measure up to 16-inches, with 10-feet tentacles. Size does vary in these species types.

With the tentacles found around its mouth, it captures its prey.

These tentacles are coated with thousands of cnidocytes, which eject a venom-coated filament into prey or perceived attackers to stun them, releasing toxins in the process.

Getting stung by an Atlantic Sea nettle jellyfish: 

  • It can cause a painful rash that can last from 20 minutes to 2 hours.

When stung by an Atlantic Sea nettle, rinse the affected area with a baking soda and seawater mixture, as the mixture will stop the stingers from stinging.

Remove the stingers by either scraping or shaving them off (if stuck to hairs on the arm.) Refrain from using a vinegar rinse.

When visiting Destin from May to December, expect an encounter with a nettle.

Pink Meanie Jellyfish (Drymonema larsani) 

Dr. Keith Bayha (Dauphin Island Sea Lab) and Dr. Michael Dawson (University of California) made the following discovery in 2014 when studying the pink meanies jellyfish found in the Gulf of Mexico:

  • Pink Meanies was not just a new type of jellyfish species but rather a whole new family of jellyfish.

Pink Meanies grow to be quite large (up to 5 feet wide) and have more than 150 tentacles capable of stinging prey or humans.

These ‘Meanies’ love to eat Moon, and other jellyfish, even when bigger than themselves. They are the anacondas of the sea. 

They use their tentacles, which can grow up to 70 feet long, to entangle their prey before reeling them in for consumption.

The Pink Meanie’s color will range from reddish white to yellowish-white and can resemble the Lion’s Mane jellyfish.

Getting stung by a Pink Meanie jellyfish:

  • The sting isn’t as painful as when stung by an Atlantic Sea nettle or a “Portuguese Man of War.”
  • It will leave a rash.
  • With so many long tentacles, you don’t want to be surrounded by these ‘meanies’ anytime soon, as multiple stings can be overwhelmingly painful.

Portuguese Man of War (Physalia physalis) 

Technically not a jellyfish, but rather a siphonophorae, the commonly known bluebottle has stung many humans in the water or on the beach.

These “Man of War” organisms are named after a Portuguese warship, and just like a ship, they are capable of floating for thousands of miles to a beach near you.

You can easily identify a bluebottle by the blue color of its fishing tentacle and the fact that they float on the water with the help of a gastral bladder topped by a vertical membrane that serves as a balloon sail. 

Long threads trail behind them (some as long as 100 feet and more), armed with stinging cells.

When a tentacle touches a fish, it paralyzes it, giving the bluebottle the chance to reel them in for consumption.

Getting stung by a Man of War:

  • You will experience an intense jerk of pain.
  • You can develop an inflammatory reaction that will typically form in a line.
  • Pain will usually last between 1 to 2 hours before receding.

What To Do When A Bluebottle Stings You

When you get stung by a “Man of War” jellyfish, you will experience pain. The more it touches you with its tentacles, the worse it gets.

Suppose you are stung by a bluebottle; WebMD recommends that you do the following: 

  • Wash/rinse the affected area with seawater/water immediately.
  • Remove any tentacles from your skin.
  • Submerge the wound in hot water (104°F)

It would be best to abstain from rubbing the wound as this will make the pain worse.

Submerging the affected area in hot water will essentially break down the venom, and it’s been reported that 104° F water can relieve you of the pain in 10 minutes.

Should the hot water be unbearable, you can keep the wound in colder water as it will calm the allergic reaction.
You can also try the following medicated gel


It’s best to steer clear of any jellyfish, as you can never quite be sure what will happen when one stings you.

You may be much more allergic to jellyfish venom than others, so always take the necessary care when swimming in the ocean.

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