Giant African Land Snails Invade Miami

Posted on September 17, 2011

Giant African Land Snail

Giant African land snails have invaded Miami. The snails can grow as large as eight inches long and four inches in diameter. The snails have a brown shell containing lightly colored whorls. The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services warns in a release that the snails eat many plants and can destroy plaster and stucco. They can also make people sick as they can carry a rare form of meningitis.

The Giant African land snail is one of the most damaging snails in the world because they consume at least 500 different types of plants, can cause structural damage to plaster and stucco, and can carry a parasitic nematode that can lead to meningitis in humans.

"Florida faces constant challenges from invasive pests and diseases that arrive through cargo, travelers' luggage, air currents, and plant and animal agricultural products," said Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam. "Enlisting the help of the public in the early detection of these pests and diseases is critical to containing and ultimately eradicating them in our state."

There was an outbreak of the Giant African land snail in Florida in 1966. It started when a boy smuggled three snails into Miami as pets. Later the boy's grandmother released the snails into their garden. Seven years later there were 18,000 Giant African land snails in Florida.

The large snails have no natural predators in Miami and can lay as many as 1,200 eggs in a year. Take a look:

Photo: Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services

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