The fifty Florida Deparment of Agriculture and Consumer Services employees assigned to eradicate the giant African land snail from Miami-Dade County moved into the new year with characteristic vigiliance. If you’re keeping score, they have now apprehended more than 137,000 of the voracious snails since they were discovered in 2011. More and more of the snails found are dead, a fact attributed to a more effective bait the EPA allowed them to begin applying in 2012.
Residents have gotten well-acquainted with the members of the team assigned to their neighborhoods. One team regularly works in each of the 24 core areas, so residents and inspectors become familiar with each other. Teams consist of a team leader and five inspectors. Each team is responsible for collection, bait application and debris removal when necessary.
Public outreach is an important part of the program. The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Serivces reaches out to residents periodically through the use of billboards, radio and television ads urging them to look for the snail and report sightings. Members of the team also make public appearances before groups and at fairs and festivals.
The Miami-Dade community continues to support the eradication efforts. In fact, reports by the public to the Helpline, 1-888-397-1517, have been responsible for 90 percent of the initial finds.
The giant African land snail is a slimy, voracious agricultural and urban plant pest. It feeds on more than 500 plants and extracts calcium from concrete on the sides of houses. It can grow up to eight inches in length and can live for nine years. Adults typically lay up to 1,200 eggs annually, so populations can quickly grow to the tens of thousands. The snails also pose a health threat: They can carry a parasite that, if ingested, can cause a form of meningitis in humans and animals.
These snails have got to go!