Reporting Alex DeMetrick
BALTIMORE (WJZ) — A warm winter and spring and last week’s hot start to summer are all pointing to a sea nettle explosion in the Chesapeake.
Alex DeMetrick reports the jellyfish pack a sting…and a benefit for the bay.
When they’re really big, sea nettles are called medusae for their trailing tentacles that pack a sting.
“It’s like a tiny harpoon that flies out of the cell and holds onto the item that touches them,” said Maggie Sexton, University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science.
Usually, it’s tiny animals that feel the sting and become dinner, but students and researchers planting oysters at the University of Maryland’s Center for Environmental Science near Cambridge are feeling it, too. And earlier than usual.
“At first, it stings pretty bad but it wears off a little bit after a while,” said Jordan Shockley.
“We’re seeing some pretty large ones. Yeah, you gotta watch out for them,” said Stacey Willey.
Sexton watches out for them every day. Her counts show more sea nettles than usual for June.
“We are seeing conditions that are right for lots of jellyfish,” Sexton said.
Like saltier water for this time of year.
“Here, we’re at 12.5, which is roughly in the middle and it’s also in the optimal range for jellyfish,” Sexton said.
Sea nettles aren’t the only jellyfish in the bay. Another species called comb jellies are voracious predators of fish larvae—and sea nettles just happen to eat comb jellies.
“Sea nettles hold down that population of predators,” Sexton said.
Call it the sting’s silver lining, although maybe not for swimmers when sea nettles begin to peak in late July.
Although conditions match a large jelly fish bloom in 2006, similar conditions three years ago did not bring a jellyfish explosion.