A Florida county has been overrun by huge African land snails

Giant African Land Snails on Human Hand – Courtesy: Shutterstock – Image by Olena Kurashova

The Sunshine State’s Pasco County has been under quarantine for over a week, thanks to an increasing population of invasive, disease-carrying giant snails. 

The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS) has confirmed that the enormous African land snail, which is native to Africa, has appeared in Florida. On June 23, the species invasion was first identified. To prevent unintentionally spreading the snails themselves, as well as their mucus or their eggs, residents in Pasco County’s New Port Richey area have been warned to restrict the transportation of plants, soil, and other “controlled objects.”

In addition to posing a threat to local agriculture, giant African land snails can occasionally carry and transmit the rat lungworm, a parasite that can infect humans and lead to meningitis. The FDACS issues a warning that handling snails without gloves or other safety gear may spread the illness. Because a single snail can produce up to 2,500 eggs each year, population control is particularly challenging in the context of a larger public health crisis. Additionally, they have the capacity to “hibernate” underground for up to a year in order to withstand cold or dry conditions.

The FDACS speculates that the invasion may have something to do with the illicit pet trade, however, the exact route taken by the enormous African land snail to Florida has not been determined. Due to worries about disease and population control, the U.S. forbids people from keeping snails as pets. Of course, some people try to bring them home illegally. If government workers miss the snails while they’re being transported, the invasive species ends up prospering and proliferating in yards, gardens, and other places with lots of vegetation. The FDACS issued a warning about the snails’ consumption of exterior paint and stucco, which the snails eat for calcium, as well as more than 500 native plants.

Fortunately, despite its enormous size, the species is not immune to pest control. The snails can reach eight inches in length and five inches in diameter, but metaldehyde, a plant-safe herbicide, can kill them. Treatment usually involves sprinkling high metaldehyde concentration dusts, sprays, or granules around plants and crops. The FDACS claims that on June 29, it started treating the New Port Richey region with the herbicide. Up to three years may be needed for the entire course of treatment.

Stories that matter are our priority. At Florida Insider, we make sure that the information we provide our readers is accurate, easy-to-read, and informative. Whether you are interested in business, education, government, history, sports, real estate, nature or travel: we have something for everyone. Follow along for the best stories in the Sunshine State.