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Fireworms are the centipedes of the sea. And with that said, it’s best to avoid the little ocean critters as much as possible. They can be found throughout the Hawaiian Islands year-round, but we hardly notice them because they only come out from their rock hidings at night. During breeding season, however, fireworms make themselves more visible by swimming along the surface as opposed to the ocean floor.
I spotted one while walking beside an exposed North Shore reef one afternoon. Its long and skinny features definitely resemble a centipede. After looking it up on my phone, I found out that they are similar to poisonous sea urchins also found here. If you touch their spines or bristles, they’ll break off and inject a toxic poison. Ouch! Some articles said it could leave a numbing sensation.
Like several other creatures in nature, the beauty of fireworms can be deceptive. So if you encounter an unknown plant or animal like these, it’s best to leave it alone because you just never know if they’ll be harmful. I guess this is something we learn as kids (by mistakes, mostly). But all too often, when we’re on vacation, we let down our guard and forget all common sense!
Photo Courtesy: Wiki Commons