Chesapeake Bay Sea Nettles – Water Ballet


There are three species of jellyfish found in the Chesapeake Bay, the most common being the Sea Nettle (or “Bay Nettle”).


Chesapeake Bay Sea Nettles in Cambridge Creek


Up until 2017, Chesapeake Bay Sea Nettles were believed to be the same species of nettles that occur offshore in the Atlantic Ocean.  A team of scientists discovered it is actually a distinct species and named it Chrysaora chesapeakei to distinguish it from its ocean cousin, Chrysaora quinquecirrha.


Chesapeake Bay Sea Nettles in Cambridge Creek


We have had a sudden surge in the number of Sea Nettles this past week in Cambridge Creek.  Before that, I’d only see one occasionally.

With the passing of Hurricane Dorian a week ago that brought high flooding to our lower Bay and then the continuance of extreme high tides with the full moon, maybe the hundreds of nettles were washed in.


Chesapeake Bay Sea Nettle – Cambridge Creek


The milky white bell of the Bay Nettle grows to an average of 4 inches (10 cm) in diameter.  They have four long, lacy oral arms hanging from their center, as well as up to 24 dangling tentacles.


“Flower Power”


Those 24 tentacles have millions of microscopic stinging cells to sting, entangle, paralyze and capture their prey of copepods, minnows, worms, comb jellies, bay anchovy eggs, and other small creatures.


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“Black & White I”


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Chesapeake Bay Sea Nettle in Cambridge Creek


The tentacles are then used to move the prey into their mouth in the center of the bell’s underside.


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“Close-up I”


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“Close-up II”


Bay Nettles do not swim and cannot control their direction.  They float with the water currents and feed continuously.  The longer they survive the summer from predators, the larger they get.  Some of the Bay Nettles in my photos are as large as 8-10″ in diameter and with tentacles 4-5 feet long.  These were some healthy nettles!


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“Caught In A Current”


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“Close Encounter”


Sea Nettles do not have eyes and do not need light to survive.  They are nearly 90 percent water.


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Chesapeake Bay Sea Nettle in Cambridge Creek


Sea Nettles are geared for high reproduction.  An average sized Chesapeake Bay Sea Nettle sheds about 40,000 eggs into the water daily from May to August.  Bay research has been ongoing to try to find a way to slow their population that continues to soar each year.


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“Black & White II”


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Floating slowly and gracefully, Sea Nettles give a stunning water ballet performance that is quite mesmerizing and soothing.

I spent time just watching them, taking shots here and there, really thinking the photos would not turn out decent.  Most were taken this morning and it was cloudy.  For me, it was more about enjoying the experience, as I have never seen anything like this before.  Of course, I love it when I surprise myself at download!  😊



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