Ibiza Jellyfish Plague: The Mauve Stinger & How To Treat A Sting

We are grateful to Ibizan reader and resident Mike Collins for sending us photos of what has come to be expected as an annual occurrence around Ibiza shores.

Mike took these photographs in Cala de Bou on Monday 29th May. Though we all know them to be painful little blighters best avoided, we thought it might be useful to have a little more info on what they are and what should be done in the case of a sting.

The Mauve Stinger

These particular jellyfish are known by several names, the most common being the mauve stinger. Their Latin classification is Pelagia Noctiluca.

They are found throughout the Mediterranean and further afield in the Atlantic and Pacific oceans and elsewhere. They can be identified by their four main tentacles and eight longer thinner tentacles together with a mottled cap and mauve interior


The umbrella diameter is usually 6-12cm but can be as large as 20cm.

The advisory service Medjellyrisk classifies their sting as among the worst under the heading ‘highly irritating’.

Pelagia Noctiluca has stinging cells with a very active toxin that produces a burning sensation, intense pain, inflammation and red skin rashes. The sting typically results in hives, blisters and scabs. Other more rare symptoms include nausea, vomiting, muscle cramps and breathing disorders.

How To Treat A Sting

The advice given when stung varies by the species of jellyfish but nowhere in their guide does it recommend ammonia so it appears the old wives tale of urinating on a sting is incorrect and actually stated as dangerous for some types of jellyfish.

  • In the case of our most frequent visitor the Mauve Stinger, the following advice is given:-
  1. Carefully rinse with seawater, do not rub the affected area.
  2. If available, apply a mixture of seawater and baking soda (1:1 ratio) for two minutes. This will stop any further release of venom from the stinging cells left on the skin.
  3. Use a plastic credit card to remove any residual tentacles and excess baking soda mixture
  4. Apply cold packs for 5-15 minutes. For example, use a bag of ice or even cold drink wrapped in a cloth.
  5. Assess the degree of pain and reapply cold pack if required for further 5 mins
  6. If pain persists, consult a doctor or pharmacist who should prescribe painkillers and/or anti-inflammatory creams e.g. 3-4% Lidocaine and Hydrocortisone.
  7. DO NOT wrap in bandages nor use vinegar, fresh water, alcohol and ammonia, all of which can aggravate the situation further.

The protocol for swimming is stated that where there are more than one jellyfish per metre squared, bathing should be prohibited.

It is worthy of note that not all jellyfish are dangerous, though less frequent, the list of Mediterranean jellyfish that pose no threat to bathers is considerably longer than those that do pose a threat.