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Holiday Decorating? Look for Giant African Land Snails

December 11, 2013

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Giant African land snails should only be handled using disposable gloves and hands should be washed thoroughly after removing gloves.

Some 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 twinkling. If you are putting up the decorations and you live in Miami-Dade County, may we suggest you also inspect your yard, buildings and landscaping for the giant African land snail. This  invasive pest threatens landscapes, agriculture, structures and public health.

The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services  continues to ask the public to be on the look-out for the snails. You may find them in and around potted plants, shrubs, yards and buildings. If you do find a suspect snail,  send a photo to the FDACS-DPI Helpline via email, dpihelpline@freshfromflorida.com, or phone the Helpline at 1-888-397-1517 for assistance. Whether they are dead or alive, avoid handling the snails. If you must handle them wear disposable gloves and place the specimens in plastic bags for collection by our inspectors. Always wash hands thoroughly after handling snails and be sure to wash your home-grown fruits and vegetables before consuming them.

SnailFind19Mar13The 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.

Teams from the Florida Department of Agriculture have been capturing and trapping snails and applying an 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 have been responsible for establishment of 90 percent of the core areas. Teams have captured more than 135,000 snails.

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 our GALS web page.

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