Another giant African snail forcing Florida province into quarantine

The return of an invasive snail species forced state officials to take action quarantine order last week for residents of Pasco County, Florida, an area north of Tampa along the Gulf Coast.

Authorities took action after confirming that a notoriously destructive species of mollusk known as the giant African land snail, was identified by a community gardener in the city of Port Richey. A division of the Florida Department of Agriculture that manages pest control began surveying the region for additional snail sightings once the quarantine mandate was in effect, the agency said. The control unit started treating the land with bait pesticide on Tuesday.

The Florida Department of Agriculture has called the giant African snail “one of the most noxious” subtypes of molluscs in the world. To be unusually large size and the ability to reproduce in large quantities allows the creature to quickly infiltrate surrounding areas, posing a threat to vegetation and infrastructure due to its appetite for at least 500 different plants and paint and stucco† At four months of age, a single snail can lay thousands of eggs at a time, and each can reach 20 inches in length as an adult.

Scientist Mary Yong Cong holds one of the giant African snails she keeps in her lab in Miami, Florida, on July 17, 2015.  / Credit: KERRY SHERIDAN/AFP/Getty Images

Scientist Mary Yong Cong holds one of the giant African snails she keeps in her lab in Miami, Florida, on July 17, 2015. / Credit: KERRY SHERIDAN/AFP/Getty Images

The snails are mobile — experts warn they “cling to vehicles and machinery,” plus trash, to “travel long distances” — and resilient, with the ability to survive for a year while “idle.” and buried in the ground to protect itself from adverse weather. They also pose serious health risks to humans, as the snails carry a parasite called rat lungworm, which can cause meningitis. People are advised to wear protective clothing, such as gloves, when handling them.

Giant African land snails have wreaked havoc in parts of Florida before. While not indigenous to the state, officials have tracked down plagues dating back to the 1960s to escaped pets and illegal imports by religious groups, the Tampa Bay Times reported. Owning and importing giant African land snails without a license is against the law in the US. Any attempt to move the snails after a sighting is also illegal without proper documentation.

The Florida Department of Agriculture has recorded two cases where the snail was completely eradicated. The most recent was last year, a decade after one of the giant snails was first spotted in Miami-Dade County. Officials say a live snail was last found in that area in 2017, ahead of the most recent sighting last week.

Detailed information on giant African land snails and Florida’s response to the latest sighting is available on the department’s website.

Supreme Court rules EPA cannot set CO2 emissions limits on power plants

CBS News examines how unsolved murders affect victims’ families

Toddler shares sweet moment with dog

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.