From the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services:MIAMI, Fla.–Florida Commissioner of Agriculture Adam H. Putnam announced today that more than 164,000 giant African land snails (GALS) have been eliminated in Florida since the invasive snail was discovered in Miami-Dade County in 2011. In addition to threatening more than 500 varieties of plants and agricultural commodities, GALS consume plaster and stucco to get the calcium needed to grow their shells. The snails also carry a parasite that can cause a type of meningitis in humans and animals.
“I am proud of the significant progress we’ve made in our effort to eliminate the giant African land snail,” said Commissioner of Agriculture Adam H. Putnam. “We will remain vigilant in our fight against these invasive pests.”
The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services’ detector dog teams and dedicated staff execute an aggressive program to routinely survey and destroy snails. Over the last five years, the department has detected and eliminated snails in 31 core areas, located in Miami-Dade and Broward counties. Due to the success of the program, the decommissioning team is recommending that 15, or nearly half, of the core areas be decommissioned in the coming year.
A team of FDACS and USDA scientists use the following criteria to thoroughly decommission a core area:
• Surveillance and treatment efforts for 17 months with no detection of live GALS;
• An additional 19 months of surveillance with no detection of live GALS;
• A minimum of one detector dog survey; and
• A minimum of one night survey, when snails can be more active.
“USDA is extremely pleased with the cooperative program’s progress in eradicating this high-impact pest of U.S. agriculture in South Florida,” said USDA State Plant Health Director Paul Hornby. “Our ongoing partnership with State, county, and city officials, and the cooperation of Florida homeowners has made this progress possible. USDA has invested $13.5 million in the effort, and we remain committed to safeguarding Florida against this invasive pest.”
Originally from East Africa, the GALS, Achatina fulica, is one of the largest land snails in the world, growing up to eight inches in length. Each snail can live as long as nine years. GALS are difficult to eliminate because they have no natural predators and reproduce rapidly, with adults laying up to 1,200 eggs per year.
Ninety-six percent of cases have been identified due to calls to the helpline. To report a giant African land snail, call the department’s toll-free helpline at 1-888-397-1517. To preserve a snail sample with gloved hands put the snail in a zip-top bag, seal it, and put in a bucket or plastic container. Do not touch the snails or release them in a different location.
For more information about the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, visit FreshFromFlorida.com.