The giant African land snails carry a parasite which can cause meningitis in humans
A Florida town is under quarantine after discovering a growing community of giant African land snails. The snails, which have a life span of nine years and grow to be eight inches in length, carry a parasite that can cause meningitis in humans.
According to Christina Chitty, a public information director at FDACS, the issue most likely stemmed from the illegal pet trade. It is illegal to own the invasive, East-African snails in the United States. Chitty told CNN that investigations are underway to find out the severity of Pasco County’s snail problem.
The species is very hard to control because of its rapid reproduction. They can produce up to 1,200 eggs in a year. This means that if an illegal snail owner discards just one into the wild or accidentally misplaces it, an exponential population increase is to be expected.
The snails could be disastrous to local agriculture and natural areas as they cause extensive damage to tropical and subtropical environments. They eat about 500 plant species, and even consume paint and stucco if they can’t find enough food, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). They do not have a predator, which makes eradication a more lengthy process.
The species was first found in Florida in the 1960s and it took 10 years and $1 million to eradicate it, according to the USDA. But it was found again in 2011 and reported eradicated in 2021 before the most recent discovery. FDACS plans on spending just three years to eradicate the snail population in Pasco County this time. To achieve this, they will treat the soil with a pesticide called metaldehyde, which is known to control snails and slugs.
Property owners inside the treatment area will be notified at least 24 hours in advance of the planned pesticide treatment.
“The goal is to eradicate the snails,” Chitty said. “It is a comprehensive and extensive process.”