The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS) has taken action to address the spread of giant African land snails, a species that poses significant environmental and health risks. A portion of Broward County in South Florida has been placed under quarantine following the recent sighting of these invasive snails.
The quarantine, effective as of Tuesday, imposes certain restrictions within the designated three-mile boundaries.
According to the FDACS, individuals located within the quarantine area are prohibited from moving giant African land snails, plants, plant parts, plants in soil, soil, yard waste, debris, compost, or building materials unless they have a compliance agreement.
Detection and Treatment:
The FDACS confirmed the presence of a giant African land snail in the Miramar area of Broward County on June 2, prompting the quarantine. To address the issue, the affected area will be treated with Metaldehyde, a pesticide that disrupts the snails’ mucus production, making them vulnerable to dehydration.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has determined that Metaldehyde, when used as directed, poses no significant risks to human health.
Environmental and Property Threats:
Giant African land snails are considered highly destructive, with scientists labeling them as one of the most damaging snail species globally. Growing up to 8 inches long, these snails pose threats to vegetation, property, and agriculture.
They are known to consume over 500 species of economically important agricultural plants and can even feed on paint and stucco to acquire calcium for their shells.
In addition to property damage, the giant African land snails can carry a parasite called rat lungworm. This parasite causes eosinophilic meningitis in humans and livestock, posing a significant health risk.
Previous Incidents and Eradication Challenges:
Last year, a quarantine was enforced in Pasco County, north of Tampa, after the invasive snails were reported in Port Richey.
It was only in 2021 that the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) declared the giant African land snail eradicated in Florida, marking the second time the state has achieved eradication. However, due to their prolific breeding abilities, the complete eradication of these snails remains a formidable challenge.
Illegal Pet Trade:
According to Christina Chitty, a public information director at the FDACS, the snails likely arrived in Florida through the illegal pet trade, as she mentioned in a 2022 interview with CNN.
The implementation of the quarantine in Broward County aims to prevent the spread of giant African land snails and mitigate the associated environmental and health risks.
Metaldehyde treatment will be conducted in the affected area, while compliance with the quarantine regulations is essential to limit the movement of snails and potentially infested materials. Efforts to eradicate and prevent the establishment of these invasive snails continue in Florida.