The bluebottles are easily recognised by the air bladder from which the creature hangs, drifting around the ocean pushed by wind and tides, its long blue tentacles trailing below.
Dr Jaratsri Angtanya, Director of the Phuket Aquarium, told The Phuket News, “My team and I took a tour of inspection around Phuket Island on Friday.
“We found about 10 bluebottles around Phuket, off Nai Yang, off Patong (in two places), off Racha Yai, off Naithon, Bangtao, Surin, Kamala, Kata, Karon and Nai Harn.
“This is not as many as we found in Phuket’s waters at this time last year.”
She explained that the bluebottles – often mistaken for jellyfish because of their long stinging tentacles, but in fact a bizarre collection of symbiotic organisms – are of a species called Physalia utriculus, as distinct from the Atlantic species, Physalia physalis, which is larger and can kill humans.
“They don’t kill people like the ones found off the US coast,” she said, but warned that a sting from one can be very painful, and can cause breathing difficulties in some people.
Bluebottles tend to come in clusters. “This [organism] appears in Phuket waters every year. They are often washed up on the beach by waves. If you see one on the beach, don’t go in the water.
“If you see one on the beach don’t touch it. Just leave it to die, which takes about two or three days. After that it is no longer venomous.”
Sting victims should flush the sting with sea water, she said, not fresh water or vinegar, as is the case with jellyfish.