PARENTS are being warned to keep their children away from jellyfish washed up along south coast beaches because they can still deliver a painful sting even when they appear dead.
There have been sightings on Highcliffe and Christchurch beaches of the UK’s largest species of the creature – barrel jellyfish – which can grow to the size of dustbin lids.
Translucent and mushroom-shaped, the jellyfish have eight frilly tentacles below which are the small stinging tentacles surrounded by hundreds of tiny mouths.
The jellyfish – known as gentle giants as they only feed on plankton – can weigh up to 35kg and have a violet fringe around the bell. They are usually found on beaches in June.
Sarah Hodgson of Dorset Wildlife Trust, said the sting is not poisonous but she added: “It is advisable for parents not to let children near them. Even if they think they are dead, they are still capable of stinging.
“We would say the same to dog owners and anyone, really. Do not touch jellyfish that have been washed up, or are in the sea.
“Not only is there the risk of getting stung, but you may misidentify the jellyfish and it could have a more painful sting than the barrel species.”
She said people should consider themselves lucky to see the barrel jellyfish: “They really are beautiful creatures in the water. They are the biggest we have in the UK.”
One bonus to barrel jellyfish coming near the shore is the leatherback turtle, which feeds on them, could follow into local waters.
In 2015 a huge invasion of barrel jellyfish led to the sighting of a leatherback off the Dorset coast.