Giant African land snails have invaded a residential area in Miami-Dade County, threatening the state’s plants and residents.
The Florida Department of Agriculture has warned workers about the new foreign invader.
Public Information Director for Florida’s Division of Plant Industry, Denise Feiber, said: “We have collected over a thousand so far and we have only just begun.”
Giant African land snails can grow to be as long as 8 inches and consume at least 500 different types of plants. They also destroy stucco and plaster. and can carry a parasitic nematode that can lead to meningitis in humans.
It is one of the largest snails in the world. Each snail can live as long as nine years and contains both female and male reproductive organs.
“They leave excrement all over the sides of houses. They’re very nasty,” Feiber said. “These things are not the cute little snails that you see.”
Officials realized they had a problem on their hands last week when two sisters flagged down a fruit fly inspector performing a routine check.
“A homeowner came out and said, I found these snails in my yard and she had one of them. He recognized it as potentially being a giant African land snail,” Feiber said.
Officials have been focusing on the one square mile area around the home in southwest Miami. They are only 30 to 40 percent done with their investigation and have already found 1,100 snails.
“We have gone back to some of these positive properties and cleaned up every one of these snails we have seen,” Feiber said. “We come back a few days later and we’re collecting more and more.”
In the late 1966, Floridians also battled its outbreak. A boy smuggled three of it on a flight and raised them as pet. His grandmother grew tired of them and released them into her garden.
Officials said it took the state 10 years to eradicate and it cost more than a million dollar to eradicate the pest from Florida. 18,000 snails were said to be collected.
The state is making arrangements to totally eradicate the pet to avoid causing harm to residents and plants.