NORFOLK, Va. — In Ocean View, recent Portuguese man o' war spottings have spooked beachgoers.
While these animals aren't native to the area, they do tend to visit the east coast from time-to-time.
On a scale of one to 10, experts at the Virginia Aquarium said the pain of a man o' war sting can be a 7 to 9. The stings can create blisters that pop and bleed and can sometimes prove to be fatal.
Robert Donovan with the Virginia Aquarium said these animals are typically spotted above water. Often their blue, pink and purple iridescent color gives them away. He says their tentacles, which can stretch 30 to 100 feet long, are what makes them lethal. Even if a man o' war is dead, it can still sting you.
The aquarium said a common misconception is that the creatures are part of the jellyfish family.
"So, the man o' war is actually not a jellyfish. It is a siphonophore," Donovan explained. "People typically call anything with stinging tentacles a jelly, but it floats along in the tropics and gets pushed up the gulf stream during the warmer months and travels along the Atlantic."
The recent spottings are causing some Hampton Roads beachgoers to exercise caution.
"I wouldn't say it would interrupt our plans, but it's definitely something for us to be concerned about. And we have a little one here, so we want to make sure she doesn't get stung," said one beachgoer.
Another person said they're not too worried about the man o' war sightings.
"I guess maybe if someone told us they were a big problem, we would probably avoid them, but I'm not that concerned," said another beachgoer.
So, how should you react if you come across a man o' war in the water? Donovan advised against getting defensive and trying to harm them.
"The important thing is to not hurt these animals they are just passing by they don't seek anything out they can't see," said Donovan.
Instead, he said people should swim away in a calm, slow manner.
"If you use too much turbulence, you might draw those tentacles into you and then they'll wrap up and you'll feel a little bit of stinging," said Donovan.
If you are stung, seek medical attention immediately.