Hi everyone and welcome to my new series of blogs for Sairee Cottage Diving, Koh Tao. This time I am talking about Fireworms. Once a month I will be writing a blog about some of the less commonly seen species of marine life found around our little island. Some of them hide away on the reefs we dive on everyday, some are very small macro species and others are found away from the dive sites out in the muck.
Fireworms also known as Bristleworms
This first blog is about Fireworms. Sometimes know as Bristleworms these little guys are usually found away from the reefs living in the muck and sometimes coming in to the reef at night. They are a carnivorous species that at night feed on coral polyps, anemones and many other reef dwelling creatures. They are a type of Polycheate Worm, which means they have a segmented body and each segment has a pair of legs covered in bristles. These bristles contain a neurotoxin and when touched the bristles break off and embed themselves in a persons skin causing a painful burn which feels similar to an extreme case of nettle stings. They are, however, non-lethal so no need to worry if you do touch one other then to realise you’re a complete idiot! As divers, we are taught from the very beginning not to touch any marine life, plus the name Fireworm should be a bit of a give away as to how it would feel. In extreme cases, as the toxin circulates in your blood stream you may become dizzy, feel sickly and even experience numbness around the area of the sting.
To treat the sting of a Fireworm you must remove the bristles, however, tweezers wont be effective at this. Get some tape stick, it over the area and peel it off. Cover the area with vinegar to neutralise the sting as soon as possible but if it is still causing irritation seek medical advice.
All that being said, these creatures are beautiful even if they move around in a similarly creepy way a centipede scurries about. As with all marine life, enjoy from a distance and more importantly, do not touch.