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Southern "Snail-ien Invasion": Giant African Land Snail

The sunny state of Florida is battling an invasion of one of the world’s most destructive species: the giant African land snail. These snails are so-named because they can grow to be as large as rats. Their size isn’t the only disconcerting thing about them: they also eat through stucco and plaster, feast on hundreds of local plants, and they pose a serious health threat to residents in Florida.

 

What are African land snails?


Giant African land snails are huge snails that are 3 to 7 inches in length (almost the size of a rat). Each land snail can produce about 100 eggs a month and live up to 9 years.

 

Where are giant African land snails located?


These creatures can be spotted in the southern half of Florida. Right now, they’re isolated to the Miami-Dade County area. Close to twenty neighborhoods are battling this snail-ien invasion.

 

Are giant African land snails harmful?


Yes, this species of snails can be very harmful. Giant African land snails can carry a human parasite called rat lungworm, the most common cause of human eosinophilic meningitis. This parasite is potentially deadly when humans come into contact with the snail mucus.

Aside from health concerns, these giant African land snails can be extremely destructive to your property. They can eat their way through crops and pose danger to agriculture. In addition to crops, they can also eat stucco, plaster, and concrete in search for calcium for their shells. The shells of these giant African land snails have been known to puncture car ties.

 

What if a giant African land snail is spotted near my home?


If you spot one of these abnormally large creatures in your backyard, don’t try to kill it by smashing it or any other way. It is best to call an agricultural officer to dispose of it. Thousands of these snails are being caught every week and 117,000 have been caught since September of 2011.

Image courtesy of abc NEWS, 2011.
Credit: Florida Department of Agriculture/Division of Plant Industry