Thousands of Queensland beachgoers stung — Bluebottle jellyfish

German tourists Mimi Wiebeling and Pauline Lapetite carry surfboards as they walk into the surf wearing Christmas hats at Sydney's Bondi Beach on Christmas Day in Australia

German tourists Mimi Wiebeling and Pauline Lapetite carry surfboards as they walk into the surf wearing Christmas hats at Sydney's Bondi Beach on Christmas Day in Australia

A sting from the bluebottle jellyfish can be painful, but not life-threatening.

Beachgoers in Queensland, Australia were in for a shock after strong winds pushed enormous numbers of jellyfish ashore, stinging thousands and forcing the closure of numerous state's famous swim spots.

Surf Life Saving Queensland said life guards had treated 13,243 bluebottle stings across the state in the past week and more than 18,000 since December 1.

Nearly 1000 people were hurt in a matter of hours on Sunday afternoon, with 476 bluebottle stings treated on the Gold Coast and 461 on the Sunshine Coast.

Surf Life Saving Queensland said over 2,600 people received treatment at the weekend. This was about triple the number of stings previous year.

Bluebottle jellyfish colonies appear like blue-tinged sacs which measure up to 15cm (6 inches) long.

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Known scientifically as Physalia physalis and Physalia utriculus, these two primitive marine species possess stingers that can easily paralyze fish and inflict serious pain on humans. Cases of death have been recorded, but scientists say they are extremely rare.

Lifesavers have been forced to close a number of beaches with 476 people treated on the Gold Coast and 461 on the Sunshine Coast.

But a SLSQ spokesman described the latest influx as an "epidemic", while some local media outlets labelled it an "invasion".

Swarms of bluebottles have caused beaches to be closed in Queensland.

However, the number seen in Queensland during the weekend is particularly unusual.

"A bluebottle has that sail that sticks up - so the wind grabs the sail and drives them ashore", Dr Gershwin told the BBC.

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