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Giant African Land Snails More Active During Summer

July 15, 2015

Florida‘s campaign against the giant African land snail won’t end until the invasive mollusks are eradicated from the state.

Members of the team working to eradicate the giant African snail from Miami-Dade always handle the animals with gloves. Students participating in the Junior Detective Program are advised to report, but not handle, snails.

Members of the team working to eradicate the giant African snail from Miami-Dade always handle the animals with gloves. Students participating in the Junior Detective Program are advised to report, but not handle, snails.

Summer rains cause giant African land snails (GALS) to be more active, making it more likely that South Florida residents will see one. The invasive snails continue to be the targets of an unprecedented effort by state and national agricultural agencies which has resulted in a steady decline in the numbers of giant GALS in South Florida, but officials warn against public complacency.

Teams from the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS) continue to search for these dangerous, invasive snails. Public awareness and watchfullness are vital program elements.

Ninety five percent of snail finds have been the result of reports from the public since the snails were first detected in Miami-Dade County neighborhoods in September 2011. In September 2014, GALS were detected in neighboring Broward County, the first time they had been found outside Miami-Dade. Teams from the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services have collected almost 159,000 snails.

SnailLifeStages

Egg to adult: photos of specimens illustrate the life cycle of the giant African land snail.

Giant African land snails can grow to be eight inches long and pose a serious threat to landscapes, crops, buildings and human and animal health. They are known to attack more than 500 plant species, many of them important agricultural crops. They damage structures by consuming stucco to obtain the calcium they need to build their shells.

Scientists have confirmed some of the captured snails carry the rat lungworm parasite, which can cause a form of meningitis in humans and animals. The teams stress that no one should handle any snail or slug without gloves and everyone should remember to wash hands and fresh produce. (A good general rule is to avoid eating raw or undercooked snails, frogs or shrimp/prawns.)

The public should continue to watch for the snails and report suspects to the FDACS Helpline, 1-888-397-1517.

Program officials urge the public to never move suspect GALS off-property, handle or consume them. Also, never move plant material from properties in the 29 core areas where the snail has been found.

Public vigilance and cooperation with the inspectors continues to be crucial. It is important for homeowners to allow inspectors access to their properties for continued survey and control efforts.

In August, visitors to the Dadeland Mall will see signs reminding them to watch for and report GALS. The “Look for Them! Report Them!” campaign continues to spread the word to Miami-Dade residents, periodically using billboards, mall signage, bus benches, radio, cable television, print ads and social media.

Members of the team in Miami also reach out to the public regularly through personal contact, presentations to community organizations and staffed displays at civic events.

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