Giant Invasive Snail Sends Florida Town Into quarantine
By: April Carson
A town in Florida has been quarantined after finding a large population of enormous African land snails. The snails, which live for nine years and reach eight inches in length, have an infection that can induce meningitis in people.
The town's residents have been instructed to avoid contact with the creatures, which are known to carry a bacteria that can cause serious health problems in humans. The snails are also a threat to crops and native wildlife.
On June 23, the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS) announced the detection of adult-sized snails in New Port Richey, Pasco County. The area was placed under quarantine the next day.
"Residents should be vigilant in reporting any new snail sightings to the department so we can take quick and decisive action to eradicated them," said Commissioner Adam Putnam.
The quarantine differs from the norm during the COVID-19 epidemic. Residents are not allowed to move plants, soil, yard waste, trash, compost, or construction materials outside a specified area during this quarantine. They're also banned from moving the snails in order to minimize the risk of meningitis transmission. If they're discovered, residents are advised to contact the FDACS hotline.
According to Christina Chitty, a public information officer at FDACS, the problem is most likely linked to the illicit pet trade. It is unlawful to possess East-African snails in the United States. Chitty said that Pasco County's snail problem is now being examined. "FDACS is currently working with the US Department of Agriculture, the US Centers for Disease Control and other state and local partners to investigate the source of these snails and to prevent their spread," she said.
The species has a high resistance to control. They can lay as many as 1,200 eggs in a year. This implies that if one illegal snail owner throws away just one into the wild or loses it, an exponential growth in population is inevitable.
Snails are the most significant pest of banana plants, causing extensive damage to tropical and subtropical ecosystems. They consume around 500 plant species and even paint and stucco if they can't find enough food, according to the USDA. They have no predator, making eradication more difficult.
"This is not going to be something we're going to get rid of easily," said Christina Stewart, a snail expert and invasive species biologist with the University of Florida. "It's going to take a lot of money, a lot of time and a lot of effort."
The town has put up barriers around the park and has been working with the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services to control the infestation. But Hartley says it's not enough.
"We need to find out how they got here in the first place so we can prevent it from happening again," she said. "Otherwise, we'll be dealing with this for years to come."
The snail species was discovered in Florida in the 1960s and it took 10 years and $1 million to get rid of it, according to the USDA. However, it was rediscovered in 2011 and declared eradicated before the most recent find. This time, FDACS will use metaldehyde, a pesticide proven to eliminate snails and slugs, to treat the soil.
"We're not going to rest until this is gone," said Hartley.
Within the treatment area, property owners will be informed at least 24 hours before the pesticide application is scheduled. While the product is safe for people and pets when used as directed, officials are asking that residents take precautions.
“The aim is to get rid of the snails,” Chitty added. “It's a lengthy and complicated process.”
The snails may produce up to 2,500 eggs each year, making it difficult to control.
This is not the first time that Florida has experienced a giant snail infestation. In Miami-Dade County, a population of the pests was discovered in 2011. It wasn't until 2021 that the population was entirely eradicated.
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April Carson is the daughter of Billy Carson. She received her bachelor's degree in Social Sciences from Jacksonville University, where she was also on the Women's Basketball team. She now has a successful clothing company that specializes in organic baby clothes and other items. Take a look at their most popular fall fashions on bossbabymav.com
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