Dried out, crusty, 'dead' bluebottles washed up on our beaches can still cause a painful sting.
The aftermath of a marine stinger invasion often presented the temptation to touch or 'pop' bluebottles — but beware.
"Even if the animal is dead, and even if the tentacle is detached from the animal, it doesn't matter because the stinging cells are actually independent from the will of the animal," CSIRO Scientist Lisa-Ann Gerswhin said.
Dr Gershwin is also the director of the Australian Marine Stinger Advisory Service.
"They stay armed and dangerous pretty much forever," she said. "Don't touch them: that's how you make them harmless."
Dr Gershwin said the bluebottle's "harpoon-like" tentacles were incredibly powerful — launching at the human skin at 40,000 times the force of gravity.
What about 'popping' bluebottles?
Dr Gershwin even advised against the popular beach tradition of stepping on or 'popping' bluebottles.
"Every year we get stings where people have been stomping on bluebottles and of course they go 'splat' and you get droplets of stingy goo going in every direction," Dr Gershwin said.
"There's always some harmless child sitting there that goes 'aaah! My eyes, my face.'
"Don't splat them. I know it's very tempting, but somebody is going to get stung and it's not going to be very pleasant."
Dangers to dogs
Dr Gershwin did not stop short of issuing the warning to humans. Dogs were just as susceptible to bluebottles out of the water, presenting obvious symptoms when attacked.
"There's usually a pretty good yelp," Dr Gershwin said.
"The bigger risk is dogs will play with them or people will poke them [bluebottles] with a stick … then they'll leave the stick there and then a dog picks up the stick in its mouth and the dog gets stung."
Head Veterinarian at Noosa District Animal Hospital, Stephanie Zurek, said bluebottle stings in dogs could result in everything from skin irritation to, in rare cases, anaphylactic reactions.
"Even ingesting a really rank dead bluebottle on the beach can be laced with bacteria that the animals can't recognise in the body — that can result in severe diarrhoea that requires veterinary attention," Dr Zurek said.
"If the tentacles touch the gums it can cause inflammation and that can result in ulceration.
"In the past I've seen patients with severe ulceration through their mouth — particularly golden retrievers, labradors, that do like to eat and eat almost anything on the beach."
"They [bluebottles] can be dead and still cause a bacterial infection."
Their feet can also be prone to bluebottle stings.
"We can see localised reaction on their feet because they barely have any fur in that area and I tend to see dermatitis," Dr Zurek said.
Symptoms include "fire engine red skin … sometimes the animal won't put weight on the leg because it's that painful to weight bear on the skin.
"Some rare cases animals can experience anaphylactic reaction but that's very, very uncommon."
Increase in stings
When bluebottles lined the shore, Surf Lifesaving Queensland Services coordinator, Jacob Thompson, said there was always an increased number of stings outside the surf.
"We'll certainly see an increase in the number of stings overall whether it would be in the surf or out," Mr Thompson said.
Being on the frontline of treating stinger victims, he urged people to not touch what may look like harmless bluebottles.
"We would encourage people that once it's on the beach just to leave it," Mr Thompson said.
"If you're going to pick it up and there's long tentacles on it — certainly they can still sting."
Despite the warnings, Mr Thompson said bluebottles were interesting creatures — and had advice for curious people.
"If you choose to pick it up, certainly pick it up with the tips of your fingers where your skin is thicker so there's less chance of it stinging you," Mr Thompson said.
"If you get it on a softer part of your skin — your arm, leg, the palm of your hands, it will certainly sting you.
"So the tips of your fingers where your skin is thicker and tougher is certainly the best place to pick it up." Print Email Facebook Twitter More