PASCO COUNTY, Florida – Florida officials are sounding the alarm following the discovery of the giant African land snail in Pasco County, Florida,, as the snail has the potential to cause significant harm to the state’s agriculture and natural areas.
The snails can consume more than 500 different types of plants and can cause extensive damage to tropical and subtropical environments. Moreover, these snails are carriers of the rat lungworm parasite, which can cause meningitis in humans.
Florida officials confirmed the discovery of the giant African land snail in the New Port Richey area of Pasco County on June 23, 2022.
The FDACS’s Division of Plant Industry has started surveying the area, and a quarantine has been enacted to prevent the snails’ spread.
The FDACS has also begun treating properties with a metaldehyde-based molluscicide (snail bait) to eradicate the pest.
The treatment is approved for residential use by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. However, the presence of the rat lungworm, Angiostrongylus cantonensis, has been confirmed in the population of giant African land snails in Pasco County, posing a serious health risk to humans.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have a webpage on Angiostrongylus for more information on the parasite.
This is not the first time Florida has had to deal with the giant African land snail. The snail has been eradicated twice before, the first time being from 1969 to 1975 and the most recent in 2021 after a detection in 2011 in Miami-Dade County. Before the recent discovery in Pasco County, the last live snail in Florida was collected in Miami-Dade County in December 2017.
Unfortunately, the detection of giant African land snails in Pasco County is not an isolated incident.
In December 2022, a detection was confirmed in Lee County, leading to increased surveys and voluntary treatment in the area.
Further surveying resulted in an increase in the number of snails found, dead and alive, leading to the enactment of a quarantine in March 2023.
Giant African land snails come in different colors, with the previously eradicated populations in South Florida and Lee County having dark brown shells with grayish-brown flesh.
The snails found in Pasco County have light to dark brown shells with milky white flesh, making them more desirable in the illegal pet trade.
State officials are urging people not to adopt giant African land snails as invertebrate pets.