WUFT News

Invasive snail species could cause more harm than just eating plants

By and on April 10th, 2013

The giant African land snail, which could give people who touch it meningitis, may slide out of Florida if a program to exterminate it goes well.

The Giant African Land Snail Eradication Program is led by the Division of Plant Industry in Gainesville, a part of the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumerism.

Snail experts gathered at a symposium Wednesday to discuss the program, which began in September 2011. Since then, more than 116,000 snails have been collected.

Denise Feiber, spokeswoman for the Division of Plant Industry, said the experts were gathered so they could evaluate the program and see if it would actually be successful.

“The giant African land snail is one of the most wanted, top invaders invasive species in the world,” Feiber said.

Feiber said so far, the division has learned it is doing a good job in eradicating the snail. The group is hoping to learn what it can do better, such as better bait or methods of trapping.

The snails, which eat stucco off houses to help build their shell, can carry a parasite that causes meningitis in humans, she said.

The parasite is called rat lungworm and is often found in the snail. Feiber said it can get into a human’s system if a person handles the snail, gets any mucus on his or her hands and then touches his or her mouth or nose.

Feiber said so far there are no reported cases of meningitis in Florida caused by the snail. Still, there are cases in other countries.

The snail attacks more than 500 different species of plants, she said, which can be detrimental to the nursery and plant industry. It also eats stucco off homes and leaves behind its slime, causing it to me a nuisance.

The snails were found when a homeowner approached one of the division’s plant inspectors with the snail. It was sent to division’s lab in Gainesville and confirmed to be a giant African land snail.

So far, the giant African land snail has only been found in Miami-Dade county.

Feiber said the snails can grow up to eight inches long and can live up to nine years. They have the ability to lay up to 1,200 eggs a year. Because they have no natural predators here, their population can increase rapidly.

Feiber said she is unsure how the snails got into Florida, but like many other non-native pests, it is possibly they hitched a ride on luggage coming from other countries.

To collect snails, the program baits them. Collected snails are frozen and killed to be studied. The program will continue until the land snail is completely eradicated. To declare eradication, the federal government requires that a snail has not been found for two years.

The giant African land snail has brown and black horizontal stripes. The public is encouraged to call the Division of Plant Industry’s helpline at 888-397-1517 if they see a giant African land snail.

Homeowners should not touch the snail, unless they are wearing gloves. Feiber said if someone does want to collect a sample, they should put it in at least two ziplock bags and call the helpline.


This entry was posted in Environment and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.
 

More Stories in Environment

This octagon-based receptacle, which looks as if its been opened, sits in front of Dragonfly Sushi in downtown Gainesville. Morgan Kalish, a downtown worker, smokes a cigarette as he walks by it on Monday morning.

Cigarette Receptacles Making Impact Downtown

The local Cigarette Litter Prevention Program is seeing success after the installation of more than two dozen cigarette receptacles in the downtown area. The program hopes to expand into midtown, despite vandalization by the homeless.


Skeletonization of a Gainesville air potato leaf shows why the air potato beetle is considered one of the most successful biocontrol approaches in recent decades compared to other projects — current or past.

Plant-Eating Beetle: Cheapest Way To Kill Weeds

The FWC has seen recent success in controlling invasive plants that overrun Florida with the use of air potato beetles, and other beetle species.


Cedar Key School’s Future Farmers Of America Chapter Fights Local Hunger

Students from Cedar Key School, a public K-12 school, vow to fight hunger in Levy County by cultivating land at the school to provide fresh, healthy food. The school donated 7,000 pounds of fresh food to the Cedar Key United Methodist Church Food Pantry.


The town’s water tank lies behind a barbed chain link fence in the forest, across from Otter Creek Baptist Church. When the water is stored, the contaminants accumulate because it sits in the pipes and doesn’t circulate.

Water Contamination Problems Persist In Otter Creek

Otter Creek’s search to buy land acquisition with a source of clean water may lead to an end to the town’s ongoing water-contamination issues.


Withlacoochee River and Dunnellon Trail Bridge.

Long-Awaited Dunnellon Blue Run Trail Extension Under Construction

Dunnellon is using funds from a Florida Department of Environmental Protection grant to finish a section of path that connects the Dunnellon and Blue Run trails. The trail will now fully support hiking, jogging, biking and rollerblading after its expected completion in December.


Thank you for your support

WUFT depends on the support of our community — people like you — to help us continue to provide quality programming to North Central Florida.
Become a Sustainer
I want to support FM 89.1/NPR
I want to support Florida's 5/PBS
Donate a Vehicle
Day Sponsorship Payments
Underwriting Payments