cornwall in colours: the blues

Portuguese man-of-war found recently on the Cornish beaches. They can give you a nasty sting if you stand on the purple-blue tentacles. I think these are what we used to call blue bottles or  blou blasie in South Africa. According to South African advice urine is good for pain relief if you do get stung, and always use salt water not fresh to wash the affected area. Conflicting advice in the use of vinegar. UK and Australians say yes, South Africans say no.

My daughter stood on a blue bottle when she was very small whilst with a friend on the beach whilst I returned home for something. Fortunately my friend rushed her into the pharmacy across the road where she was treated. I felt very guilty though when I saw her tear-streaked face and the red welts on her foot.


  1. They’re wonderfully photogenic aren’t they? We’ve had heaps here too – I have a “5 minutes with” drafted

    1. Heyjude says:

      I should have thought about the “5 minutes with…” They are even more photogenic in the water with those ‘tentacles’ all hanging down.

  2. 76sanfermo says:

    Totally unknown…..before seeing your photos….
    Love your pics but not the bug!

    1. Heyjude says:

      Usually found in warmer waters Anna.

  3. beetleypete says:

    Like most things, ‘fashionable treatments’ for such stings alter over the years. The PMOW leaves barbs of venom in the sting, so only gently removing them really eases the pain. When I was in the ambulance service, (though there were no beaches in London of course) we were told to use bicarbonate of soda to ease the pain. That advice has now changed to vinegar, but no doubt a new theory will emerge. Urine is classed an as ineffective ‘old wive’s tale’ now, but was also once a recommended treatment.
    Best wishes, Pete.

    1. Heyjude says:

      My mother used to say that you treated a wasp sting with vinegar and a bee’s with bicarb because one (sting) is alkaline and the other acidic. I don’t know if there is any truth in that theory. I do know that both are very painful!

      1. beetleypete says:

        As I recall, Bees can only sting once. The stinger tears out of their body, and the poison sack remains attached, still pumping poison. The bee dies, presumably. Wasps can sting repeatedly, as I once found out!
        Research online shows that your Mum was 100% correct. She knew her stings! x
        Best wishes, Pete.

      2. Joanne Sisco says:

        I wish I had known this a couple of months ago. I had 2 wasp stings in September. Ouchie!!

        1. Heyjude says:

          Well you know now. Pack a small bottle of vinegar and a packet of bicarb in your rucksack!

        2. Joanne Sisco says:

          Damn – that pack is getting fuller with every trip …

  4. Very photogenic, but not at all attractive. I remember my mom told us they had quite a lot of these in Hong Kong when she was growing up there. They obviously moved to Cornwall after the war. 🙂

    1. Heyjude says:

      Haha… not usually found in our waters as they like warmer climates. Not sure how they happened to get here.

  5. I was stung several times once as a child. It was dreadfully painful. At northern Australian beaches there are posts with large bottles of vinegar attached ready for use if needed.

  6. Elizabeth says:

    I am trying to imagine telling your child to piddle on the jellyfish bite!

  7. I haven’t seen a Portugese man of war on dry land before and it doesn’t look at all like I expected. I was stung by a jellyfish in the Arabian Sea/Persian Gulf – it was really quite painful, but I don’t think it was a PMoW.

    1. Heyjude says:

      There are quite a few jelly fish that are stingers. The compass one that I posted a few weeks ago stings too. I was lucky not to stand on that one!

      1. Probably always a good idea to wear wellies to the beach – no matter how lovely the weather. 😀

        1. Heyjude says:

          Haha… yes, that IS a good idea 😀

  8. Robyn Haynes says:

    These interesting creatures are a blight on our beaches every summer especially when the north wind blows. The further north you go along Australia coastlines, the more likely you won’t be able to swim in summer without a stinger suit.

    1. Heyjude says:

      Yes, they do spoil the joy of going into the sea. I remember them from Cape Town, but hadn’t realised they were PMOW as we called them blue bottles.

  9. Sounds nasty! I wonder who’s right regarding the vinegar though… Anyway, piss is easier accessible should you be so unfortunate to get stung. 😀

    1. Heyjude says:

      You’d think it would be obvious wouldn’t you, whether the sting is alkaline or acidic. I guess the best solution is to not get stung!

  10. pommepal says:

    Yes I know them as bluebottles too Jude and beaches used to have a box with a bottle of vinegar in it for treating stings. But haven’t noticed that nowadays, maybe the life guards have some on hand.

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