FDACS Continues Progress Toward Snail Eradication
April 23, 2015
Decline in giant African land snail captures is good news for South Florida residents and Florida agriculture
Since August 2011, the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services has had teams working full-time to eradicate the giant African land snail from South Florida. Over the course of the program, the teams have collected nearly 157,000 snails.
In the early years of the eradication program most of the captured snails were alive. The most current weekly report showed only 25 snails collected– all of them dead. The increase in the snails’ mortality rate is largely attributed to use of an improved bait.
The snails collected last week were found in just four of the 28 core areas in Miami-Dade and Broward counties where GALS have been detected. The teams continue to monitor properties in each core.
The numbers show continuing progress toward the goal of eradicating the snails, which can consume 500 different agricultural crops. Each snail can grow to a maximum length of eight inches, live for nine years and lay up to 1,200 eggs each year. They also consume stucco from buildings to obtain calcium to build their shells.
The giant mollusks can also host the microscopic rat lungworm, known to transmit a form of meningitis to humans and animals, although no cases of meningitis have yet been traced to GALS in South Florida.
Public outreach continues
The teams continue to reach out to the public, encouraging Florida residents to watch for GALS and report them to the FDACS Helpline, 1-888-397-1517, so a team can respond. The vast majority of the finds have been the result of calls from the public.
The snails continue to be the subject of frequent media reports. In addition, the department and USDA have sponsored print and broadcast ads, bus benches and signs and billboards.
Team members also meet the public face-to-face at every opportunity. This month, for example, team members spoke at a high school in Broward County and manned booths at the Miami International Agricultural Horse and Cattle Show. Later this month they’ll attend the popular Sweet Corn Festival in West Palm Beach and in early May they will make a presentation at a high school in Miami-Dade.
While GALS have not been detected in Florida outside of Miami-Dade and Broward counties, the team is taking no chances. The department recently sponsored a billboard on I-4 south of Orlando and ran prominent ads in the Orlando Sentinel. The goal is to promote continued public awareness of the invasive snail throughout the state.