A county in Florida has gone on high alert after a giant African land snail has emerged half a century after it was thought the species was eradicated in the state.
The giant land snails were found in the New Port Richey area of Pasco County on June 23. According to a statement from the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS), the giant African snail is devastating to Florida’s agriculture and “consumes at least 500 different types of plants,” making it “one of the most damaging snails in the world.”
“These snails could be devastating to Florida agriculture and natural areas as they cause extensive damage to tropical and subtropical environments,” FDACS said.
“The snails also pose a serious health risk to humans by carrying the parasite rat lungworm, known to cause meningitis in humans.”
Though the snails are illegal to import or possess in the United States without a permit, the snail has been eradicated twice in the state of Florida. The population is difficult to control due to the snail’s fast reproductive rate, producing up to 2,500 eggs per year.
“The first detection was in 1969 and was eradicated in 1975. The most recent eradication of this pest was in 2021 from a detection in 2011 in Miami-Dade County. Prior to the recent detection, the last live snail in Florida was collected in Miami-Dade County in December of 2017,” the FDACS said.
According to News 4 Jax, a quarantine was issued on June 25 that “prevents residents from moving the snail or related items, like plants and soil, in or out of the designated quarantine area.”
“Last week, FDACS’s Division of Plant Industry started to survey the area, enacted a quarantine and will begin treatment for the detrimental pest,” the outlet reported. “FDACS said it will treat properties with a metaldehyde-based molluscicide (snail bait). FDACS said it plans to spend three years eradicating the population in Pasco County.”