Sea Wasps Have Been Spotted

We have had a few reports around The Bahamas of box jellyfish known as Sea Wasps (now Alatina sp, but formerly Carybdea alata) showing up. The Caribbean Sea Wasp has 4 long tentacles, one on each side of its cube shaped bell. Typically, there will be blooms of Sea Wasps (as a result of spawning) around 10 days after a full moon. At this time they are more likely to be concentrated in protected areas. Thus far, we know of sightings near Graham’s Harbor near the public dock in San Salvador and at Low Place on Man-O-War.

Box Jellyfish (class Cubozoa) are composed of about 50 species, all of which vary in levels of toxicity. Fortunately, the species found throughout the Caribbean is not nearly as lethal as one species of box jellyfish found in the Pacific (Chironex fleckeri). An interesting feature of this group is the development of eye spots- these jellyfish are actually able to move away from darker colored objects.

Although stings from the Sea Wasp in the Caribbean are not traditionally lethal, stings have been known to elicit Irukandji-like syndrome- severe low back pain, limb cramping, nausea, headache, restlessness and “a feeling of impending doom”. Though this syndrome sounds awful, it is not life threatening and is typically rare in Alatina sp stings. If you are stung by a Sea Wasp, it is best to immerse the affected area in hot water. If symptoms or pain persist seek medical attention.



Bastian Bentlage, Paulyn Cartwright, Angel A. Yanagihara, Cheryl Lewis, Gemma S.Richards, Allen G. Collins. 2009. Evolution of box jellyfish (Cnidaria: Cubozoa), a group of highly toxic invertebrates. Proc. R. Soc. B, 277: 493-501. doi: 10.1098/rspb.2009.1707

Cegolon, L., Heymann, W. C., Lange, J. H., & Mastrangelo, G. (2013). Jellyfish Stings and Their Management: A Review. Marine Drugs, 11(2), 523–550. doi:10.3390/md11020523

Carrette, T., Straehler-Pohl, I., Seymour, J. 2014. Early life history of Altaina cr. moseri population from Australia and Hawaii with implications for taxonomy (Cubozoa: Carybdeia, Alatinidae). Plos One. 9(1). doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0084377

By | 2015-06-17T08:39:57-04:00 June 17th, 2015|Categories: Invertebrates|7 Comments

About the Author:

Ryann Rossi
My general research interests lie in the ecology of marine coastal ecosystems. I am most interested in the role plant diseases have in shaping the ecology of coastal and estuarine environments. I am currently studying the role of a plant pathogen in a die-off of Red Mangroves in The Bahamas. Follow Ryann Rossi


  1. Avatar
    ali ball July 7, 2015 at 8:24 am

    I used to live in Darwin, Australia, where we had the lethal kind of sea wasp. The standard first aid treatment was to pour vinegar on the tentacles before removing them – this is meant to neutralize the poison, and also prevents the tentacles from releasing more poison when you remove them. Of course, being Australia, a lot of people swore that beer worked better, with urine created from beer as the second favourite. Probably because there was always a lot more beer and beer pee available on the beach than vinegar.

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    willem maarse May 2, 2016 at 4:58 pm

    Saw some snorkelling yesterday at the low area Man of War

  3. Ryann Rossi
    Ryann Rossi May 11, 2016 at 9:25 am

    Thanks for the heads up!

  4. Avatar
    Grace April 24, 2017 at 12:36 pm

    I spent last summer at the Gerace Research center just down the road from Grahams Harbor and did a lot of research in Grahams Harbor for juvenile sea turtles. After being in the water for ten minutes we noticed that we were surrounded by these jellyfish but curiously no one got stung and as the teenagers we are we decided to test it. I spent two hours (at least) everyday, for three weeks, in the water gathering turtle data surrounded by these jellyfish and never got stung. In fact no one from our group ever got stung and we observed the turtles eating the jellyfish. That is an exact picture of the jellyfish I swam with but I have a hard time believing it’s a sea wasp after all that time not getting stung. We even caught one and observed it in a lab for a couple days, you could stick your finger right up in its tentacles and nothing happened.

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    ray November 16, 2017 at 6:51 am

    i saw this jellyfish at lighthouse beach on eleuthera yesterday. it certainly looked like a box jelly but had an almost perfect transparency. i noticed its shadow first then the jelly. i too wober if it had the venom of the aussie version. i

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    Carson Byers December 7, 2018 at 10:05 pm

    A bunch at hawks nest marina in Cat Island

  7. Avatar
    Rod Dehan December 8, 2018 at 2:39 pm

    Just stung at Long Bay TCI

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