Florida Commissioner of Agriculture Adam H. Putnam announced that more than 168,000 Giant African Land Snails (GALS) have been eliminated in Florida since the invasive snail was discovered in Miami-Dade County in 2011. In addition, due to the success of the program, the department has decommissioned two additional core areas, two of the largest is the state, where snails were found.
The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services and The U.S. Department of Agriculture have been working cooperatively to eradicate this major agricultural pest from Miami-Dade and Broward counties. Over 168,000 snails have been collected in 31 core areas of Miami-Dade County, and in one area of Broward County.
Twenty-two of the 32 cores have been decommissioned. More cores are scheduled for decommissioning in 2019. Core one, one of the areas decommissioned, is one of the largest cores in the program, with 147 properties and over 31,000 snails found over the course of the program.
Cores are decommissioned after intensive protocols involving property-by-property reviews are conducted by a team of scientists and administrators from FDACS and the USDA. The protocol includes 17 months of inspections and a minimum of 26 treatments, an additional 19 months of inspections with no treatments, and, a minimum of one inspection each by a detector dog team and a night inspection team. The total time from the last live snail detection on a positive or adjoining property to decommissioning is 36 months.
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. They reproduce rapidly and can lay up to 2,500 eggs in one year. Department scientists have confirmed some of the captured snails carry the rat lungworm parasite, which can cause a form of meningitis in humans and animals. Fortunately, no meningitis cases in South Florida have yet been traced to the snail. No one should handle any snail or slug without gloves and everyone should remember to wash hands and fresh produce.
Program officials advise the public to never move plant material from properties in core areas where the snail has been found. The public should continue to watch for the snails and report suspects to the helpline at 1-888-397-1517.
To see a map of core areas and for more information on the program, click here.