Florida officials plan to eradicate giant African land snails again: NPR

Scientist Mary Yong Cong holds one of the giant African snails she keeps in her lab in Miami on July 17, 2015.

Kerry Sheridan/AFP via Getty Images


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Kerry Sheridan/AFP via Getty Images

Florida officials plan to eradicate giant African land snails again: NPR

Scientist Mary Yong Cong holds one of the giant African snails she keeps in her lab in Miami on July 17, 2015.

Kerry Sheridan/AFP via Getty Images

Florida is once again planning to eradicate the giant African land snail, which the US Department of Agriculture calls “one of the most damaging snails in the world.”

It is a “highly invasive agricultural pest” that can feed on more than 500 species of plants, USDA says.

Spotted a master gardener recently Achatina (Lissachatina) fulica in New Port Richey, a city in Pasco County on Florida’s Gulf Coast. The state’s agriculture department confirmed the sighting of the snail on June 23.

“These snails can be devastating to Florida agriculture and wildlife habitats as they wreak havoc on tropical and subtropical environments,” says the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.

The species has been exterminated in Florida twice before – in 1975 and 2021. It costs millions of dollars to get rid of them.

The snail is native to Africa and “they are considered serious agricultural pests in the United States.” In addition, they carry a rat lungworm, a parasite that causes meningitis in humans. And if they don’t absorb enough calcium from the soil, they nibble through plaster and stucco structures.

In 2018, the Florida Agriculture Commissioner described the snails as a “triple threat” due to their potential harm to human health, the environment and agriculture.

The snail reproduces about 1,200 eggs in a single year, USDA says. They can grow up to eight inches long and nearly two inches in diameter — “about the size of an average adult fist,” the department says.

The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS) has designated a quarantine area in Pasco County.

FDACS said its Plant Industry Division would begin treatment “for this noxious pest” on Wednesday, using a pesticide to slow the snails’ movement and food digestion.

This type of snail is illegal to distribute, sell, and ship across state lines. If you see a giant African snail, officials ask you to call your state department of agriculture or the USDA office of the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service in your state.

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