Floridians, specifically those in Pasco County have a new 8-inch threat to worry about; giant African snails. Although this is not the first time Florida has dealt with the parasitic snail, it is still extremely concerning and incredibly hard to manage. The snails are parasitic to humans and animals while also destroying vegetation at an alarming rate. Now that they are back again, here is what you need to know, and what you can do if you come across one.
The snails were first found in Florida in 1960 and it took ten years and approximately a million dollars to eradicate. In 2011 the snails came back again and were finally eradicated in 2021. Thus far it is noted that the species are different than those found in 2021. 1,000 invasive snails have been collected from 29 properties in Pasco County to date. The Department of Health is still investigating the African snail population to determine the exact amount of snails in Pasco County and what type of species (should there be more variety).
It is speculated that the snails returned to Florida due to illegal pet trading. It is illegal to inhabit these snails in the state or carry them through. The snails can get lost by owners or even discarded by them. Once this happens the snails quickly reproduce and multiply. They can produce up to 2,500 each year.
Two beagle dogs found two gigantic African snails from luggage coming into Hartsfield-Jackon Atlanta International airport from Nigeria in June 2022. The snails were confiscated and turned over to the USDA for investigation. It was noted that the traveler was not penalized but simply warned. There is no further information on the traveler. If the species is so invasive and problematic we should probably be treating these pests as any other kind of illegal contraband. We don’t have to have a punishment that is as severe as drugs or other contraband, but some consequences should be in place to deter people from bringing them to the state.
Approximately 3 weeks ago I noticed all of my plants had died. Florida can be a hard state to garden in but once you get a hang of the climate and critters they can flourish. Upon reviewing the plants I found a large snail that had inhabited my zucchini and caused chaos in the entire little garden killing all of the plants. Luckily it turned out to only be a garden snail. However, I could only imagine the damage that these giant snails can cause if a garden snail can reek so much havoc.
If you come across a giant land snail, first and foremost do not touch it. If you do see them, you are likely to see them in your garden or even on the outside of your house. The snails actually feed on the calcium from the stucco on houses. They are known to consume over 500 types of plants, including your regular garden plants and veggies destroying vegetation. The snails carry parasites that can cause meningitis in humans and animals. You can get meningitis from not only touching the snail but eating any kind of plants or vegetation it has touched. The agriculture commissioner Nikki Fried was quoted saying that the snails are a “clear threat” and to be taken seriously. If you are a gardener or simply live in South Florida, keep your eyes out for these giant snails, and remember to contact the number below!
Floridas Department of Plant Industry Helpline-888-397-1517