Sea butterflies wash up on North Carolina coast. Pleasant name, painful encounters.

National News

EMERALD ISLE, N.C. (WNCT) — A trip to North Carolina’s Crystal Coast is becoming a pain for some beachgoers, and not from sunburns or traffic.

Instead, it’s from something with a deceptively harmless name: sea butterflies. They do not have wings, but they do have fins.

Sea butterflies collected at Emerald Isle beaches.

Sea butterflies are a type of snail normally found in warmer Caribbean waters. They are not toxic, but they can cause mild irritation to the skin.

The best treatment is to rinse with fresh water and change your clothes after the beach.

“We noticed at the point we started being stung by these little shards of glass,” said Joe Tarallo. He was visiting the Crystal Coast this weekend with friends, but it quickly turned into a painful experience.

They didn’t realize they were encountering sea butterflies. When in the water, the sea creatures started sticking to their swimsuits.

“We decided to get out of the water because it was hurting,” said Tarallo.

Emerald Isle Ocean Rescue Coordinator William Matthias say the lack of currents and wind are allowing these creatures to show up in the area. Firefighters say this is the first time in three to five years they’ve seen this many on the coast.

It’s Tarallo’s first experience with them, but he says it won’t keep him from future visits.

“It just adds to the 2020 experience,” Tarallo said.

The Emerald Isle Fire Department is displaying purple flags to make people aware of the sea butterflies.

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