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Miami Residents: Check for Giant Snails as You put up Holiday Lights

December 5, 2012

Some of us handy homeowners don’t really get into the full spirit of the holiday season until the yard decorations are in place and the lights are in full twinkle. While they are in their yards putting up the decorations, the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services suggests Miami-Dade residents should spend just a few minutes inspecting their yards, homes and landscaping for the giant African land snail, an invasive pest that threatens landscapes, agriculture, structures and public health.

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Giant African land snails should be only be handled using disposable gloves. Hands should be washed thoroughly after handling a snail.

The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services  continues to ask the public to be on the look-out for the snails, which may be found in and around potted plants, shrubs, yards and buildings. If a homeowner finds a suspect snail, he or she can send a photo to the FDACS-DPI Helpline via email, dpihelpline@freshfromflorida.com, or phone the Helpline for assistance. Homeowners should avoid handling the snails, using disposable gloves if they must handle them at all, and placing the specimens in plastic bags for collection. They should also wash hands thoroughly after handling snails and be sure to wash any home-grown fruits and vegetables before consuming them.

Teams from the Florida Department of Agriculture have been capturing and trapping snails and putting down environmentally safe bait in residential areas of Miami since the discovery of the invasive mollusk in September 2011.  The Miami-Dade community continues to support the eradication efforts. In fact, reports by the public to the Helpline, 1-888-397-1517, have been responsible for establishment of 90 percent of the core areas. As of Dec. 4, teams had captured nearly 103,000 snails in 20 core areas.

The snail is a voracious agricultural and urban pest. It feeds on more than 500 plants and extracts calcium from concrete on the sides of houses. It can grow up to eight inches in length and live for nine years. Adults typically lay up to 1,200 eggs annually, so populations can quickly grow to the hundreds of thousands. Florida Department of Agriculture scientists have confirmed that some specimens collected in Miami-Dade harbor the rat lungworm parasite, which can cause a form of meningitis in humans.

Anyone who thinks they may have, or may have seen, a giant African land snail is asked to call the Division of Plant Industry’s toll-free helpline at 888-397-1517 to arrange to have the snail collected. For more information visit www.FreshFromFlorida.com/pi

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