Does St. Pete Beach Have Jellyfish? (Types, Photos & Stings Explained)

St. Pete Beach is one of the most iconic beach vacation destinations in the country — many people consider its beaches to be the best in the U.S.

And it’s easy to understand why! With unbeatable access to Tampa Bay and the Gulf, along with beautiful blue Gulf waters and stunning sunsets, St. Pete Beach has it all. Really.

With top-notch dining, access to plenty of state parks and family recreation, a top-tier location with easy access, and some of the best ocean recreation in the world, it doesn’t get better than St. Pete Beach.

Ocean and beach recreation here includes swimming, diving, snorkeling, boat tours, fishing, kayaking, and more. Plus, the water is that perfect, Gulf blue, with beautiful beachtime temperatures year-round.

But you may have one question about that lovely water before you dip yourself in:

Does St. Pete Beach, FL have jellyfish?

Photo by sdobie/Flickr

Some of the jellyfish known to the area around St. Pete Beach are:

  • Cannonballs
  • Moon jellies
  • Blue buttons
  • Pink meanies
  • And sea nettles

Other beaches, even other beaches in Florida, have a high concern for animals like jellyfish, but St. Pete Beach sees far fewer jellyfish than many other places. Jellyfish do exist in waters here, and more so farther out into the Gulf, but you’re unlikely to encounter them unless you go looking.

Let’s identify some common St. Pete Beach jellyfish with photos and info about their stings and commonality.


Types of Jellyfish in St. Pete Beach

Jellyfish are fairly common in the Gulf of Mexico, like most marine animals.

When it comes to St. Pete Beach, however, the risk from jellyfish is quite low, and the biggest concerns actually come from other sea life, like sharks and stingrays.

Jellyfish are at the whim of large ocean currents and tides, and the tropical currents nearby move jellies up the Atlantic coast, rather than into the Gulf of Mexico.

While jellies are common farther out in the Gulf, they are relatively unusual in Tampa Bay. If your vacation takes you a little farther out on the open water, or to nearby beaches up or down the coast, you may encounter more jellyfish.

Not to fret, though, as even then, the chances of finding a dangerous jellyfish are low. Here’s what you might see:

Cannonball Jellyfish

Judy Gallagher, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Cannonball jellies are one of the many species aptly named based off its appearance.

They’re also known in many places as cabbageheads, and as both of those names suggest, they resemble a round ball with short, leafy tentacles.

Cannonball jellies at St. Pete Beach are mostly white with some brown coloring around the rim of their bells.

Though cannonballs have an abrupt name, these jellyfish are not considered dangerous.

They have a mild but uncommon sting — even if you do brush up against one, many people report not being stung at all.

Do still take caution, though, as some stings can cause discomfort and some pain.

Moon Jellyfish

By Alexander Vasenin – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0

Moon jellies are some of the most common and beloved types of jellyfish around the world.

They range greatly in size, depending on where they are and what species it is, from a few centimeters to a few feet across!

Moon jellies are one of the more abundant jellies in many places, including the Gulf of Mexico. Moon jellies are very recognizable, but extremely difficult to spot. They’re almost completely transparent, with a white, four-leaf-clover shape in the middle of their bells.

Moon jellies are usually considered harmless to humans.

Like all jellyfish, they do have a sting, but it’s only dangerous to their prey — small marine animals. Most humans experience a sting that is barely noticeable from moon jellies.

Blue Buttons

By Bruce Moravchik (NOAA) – NOAA Photo Libraryen.wikipedia (w:Image:Porpita porpita.jpg), Public Domain

Blue buttons are not technically a jellyfish, but they’re often tossed into the same category for ease, since they are easily mistaken for them! Blue buttons are a colony of small organisms that collect together to give the appearance of one larger organism, with an appearance not dissimilar to a jellyfish.

Unsurprisingly, this final form resembles a button, with a brown center surrounded by lacy, turquoise tentacles.

Blue buttons can sting, but it’s rare and not considered dangerous, leaving only mild skin irritation.

Pink Meanies

By Liza Gomez Daglio – CC BY-SA 4.0

Pink meanies are one of the newest species of jellyfish, having been discovered only in the last 20 years.

Following the naming trend, these guys are easy to identify — they’re pink, ranging from bright to magenta, and they have long, almost fluffy-looking tentacles. Also following the naming trend, they’re not exactly nice.

Pink meanies have a fairly potent sting that may cause pain for a few hours, though it’s not particularly dangerous.

Sea Nettles

By Jarek Tuszyński / CC-BY-SA-3.0 & GDFL, CC BY-SA 3.0

Sea nettles appear in a variety of species across the world, and none of them are friendly (the Pacific sea nettle is the closest to “nice,” and even it carries a small sting).

Sea nettles have a sharp sting that causes discomfort and some skin irritation, with pain lasting around an hour.

Sea nettles in this region are smaller than some, averaging around 10 inches to a foot across the bell, with several long tentacles. Their bell is mostly round and semi-transparent, with dark brown or reddish vertical stripes.


History of Jellyfish Stings near St. Pete Beach

St. Pete Beach does have jellyfish in its waters, along with almost every other type of shallow-water marine animal!

The gulf waters are very friendly to marine life, since they are warm and relatively protected from larger, faster ocean currents that drive the nearby Atlantic.

Those same currents are what carries the bulk of jellyfish straight up the coast.

Considering that, jellyfish here are usually lower in numbers, and a smaller concern than some other marine animals, like stingrays and sometimes sharks.

It’s much more common to have a run-in with a startled ray than with a jellyfish! Sharks are also quite passive here, so really, St. Pete Beach is a fantastically safe choice.

Jellyfish in the Gulf are less common than along the Atlantic coast, due to the natural ocean currents that carry jellies from place to place.

While it’s known that they do exist in the water, most vacationers report never having seen one near St. Pete Beach. In fact, this is generally the case for many Tampa Bay beaches and other beaches along the Gulf coast in Florida.


Does St. Pete Beach have a Jellyfish Season?

In general, jellyfish stings are more common during warm summer months.

This is a common time for what’s known as jellyfish season. This title largely comes from one reason: the fact that there are more jellyfish in the water, thanks to water conditions like temperature and currents.

In St. Pete Beach, there is one other essential factor that makes this time of year more active for jellyfish stings, and this is simply that there are more people.

While subtropical beaches like St. Pete Beach are beautiful any time of year, summer is a classic time for a beachtime getaway. With more people on the beaches, the chances of there being a jellyfish encounter are naturally higher.

Warmer conditions in the water are friendly to jellyfish survival and proliferation, which is another large part of why warm summer months are more known for jellyfish blooms.

Jellyfish season in St. Pete Beach can begin as early as May, and extend as late as October, with a peak in August or early September.

While these times are known for the largest numbers of jellyfish, jellyfish are actually present in these waters year-round.

However, since jellyfish are carried in volume by large ocean currents like the Gulf Stream that mostly pass by the Gulf of Mexico, the actual number of St. Pete Beach jellyfish are much lower than in other areas.

If you do encounter jellyfish, it’s important to remember that they aren’t targeting humans by any means. Quite the opposite — they’re almost completely at the will of ocean movement. Jellyfish can’t move sideways on their own, only vertically, so any movement that brings them to other regions or to shore is due to water movement.


Tips & Things to Know to Avoid Jellyfish Stings at St. Pete Beach

Like most beaches on or near the Atlantic, St. Pete Beach is home to jellyfish. And unfortunately, it can be hard to avoid them until it’s too late.

Most jellyfish are very transparent, and therefore very difficult to spot while strolling a beach or swimming near shore.

The stinging part of a jellyfish is its tentacles, and it’s important to note two things.

First, you can be stung just by brushing against them (toxins are often released simply on contact), and second, a jellyfish doesn’t have to be alive or even attached to its tentacles for them to sting, meaning that even a washed-up part of a tentacle can cause stings.

Fortunately, most species of jellyfish found in US waters cause only mind stings, and the vast majority don’t contain toxins that can trigger allergic reactions. While a sting can be uncomfortable and painful for a short time, St. Pete Beach jellyfish rarely pose a serious threat.

If you do encounter a jellyfish sting, there are a few things you should do to treat it:

  1. Look for signs of allergic reaction. The most serious threat St. Pete Beach jellyfish pose is via an allergic reaction. Here, stings themselves cause discomfort or mild pain that can usually be treated at home. The only major exception, which is again uncommon in this area, is if the person is showing signs of an allergic reaction, like hives or signs of anaphylaxis. This can quickly turn a mild sting into a medical emergency.
  2. Remove barbs or tentacles. Unless removed, barbs and tentacles will continue releasing toxins. Remove them using the edge of a credit card, or by using a towel or clothing as protection — do not remove them with bare hands.
  3. Rinse the area with water. Rinsing with sea water — not fresh water — helps to remove remaining barbs. After all barbs and tentacles have been removed, you can rinse with hot water (as hot as can be tolerated) to relieve pain.
  4. Check in with a lifeguard. All lifeguards will have tools available to help relieve pain from jellyfish stings, including saline and vinegar solutions. If the species of jellyfish was unknown, however, it’s best to avoid using a vinegar solution, as this can worsen the stinging from some species.

Wrapping Up

St. Pete Beach is one of the country’s — and world’s — top beach destinations, and for good reason. With unbeatable offerings from family activities to dining and swimming, St. Pete Beach has it all.

Plus, the risk of encountering harmful marine animals like jellyfish is low, thanks to the natural ocean currents of the region.

If you’re planning a vacation here, you won’t have to worry about a sting ruining your beach getaway!

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Hope this helps!