By: Judy Mann
Many us have seen the thousands of bluebottles washed up on the Durban beachfront recently. The bluebottle is a fascinating colony of animals living together, each performing a specific function. The float – the bag-like part filled with a special gas mixture – is used as a sail for movement and the animal can adjust the shape and position of the float depending on the wind. The tentacles are armed with stinging cells and can reach many meters in length. Out in the ocean, blue bottles feed on tiny fish and other floating animals that they immobilise with their stinging cells. Bluebottles are related to corals, anemones and jellyfish.
Watch out when you are on the beach as the stinging cells in their tentacles can still sting! Be careful if you are stung as some people can have allergic reactions to the stinging cells. A cloth soaked in hot water can help relieve the pain. The best is to stay away from them and don’t swim when there are many in the water. The north easterly winds we have been experiencing recently blow the bluebottles onto the shore.