September marks the seventh anniversary of the giant African land snail eradication program. The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS), in conjunction with the United States Department of Agriculture ave been at the forefront of the program in South Florida since its inception in 2011.
From the beginning, the eradication program has made significant progress in trapping giant African land snails – over 168,000 in fact.
The start of the program began with establishing 32 cores where the snail was identified. In the past two years, 20 cores have been decommissioned. Decommissioning a core mean the core has met the requirements of going 17 months of surveys with a minimum of 26 treatments, an additional 19 months of surveys with no treatments, a minimum of one detector dog visit and a minimum of one-night survey. The program anticipates the decommissioning of Cores 1 and 24, two of the largest cores, before the end of the year.
Eradication the giant African land snail is imperative as the pest not only poses a threat to landscapes and crops, but also buildings and human and animal health. Giant African land snails are known to grow to be eight inches long and attack more than 500 plant species, many of them important agricultural crops. The snails also damage structures by consuming stucco to obtain the calcium they need to build their shells. Scientists have confirmed some of the captured snails in Florida carry the rat lungworm parasite, which can cause a form of meningitis in humans and animals. Fortunately, no meningitis cases in Miami have yet been traced to the snail. As a general rule, no person should handle any snail or slug without gloves and every person should remember to wash their hands and fresh produce.
As the eradication program progresses, so does its success, with many thanks attributed to the public. Public awareness and watchfulness are vital program elements. Program stats indicate at least 95 percent of snail finds have been the result of reports from the public.
Even with all of the program’s success, officials do warn against public complacency. Public vigilance and cooperation with the inspectors continues to be crucial. Homeowners should remember it is important to allow inspectors access to their properties as they continue to survey and control these dangerous, invasive snails.
The “Look for it! Report it!” campaign continues to spread the word to Miami-Dade residents, using billboards, bus benches, radio, television, print ads and social media. Members of the team in Miami also reach out to the public through personal contact, presentations to community organizations, and attending civic events.
The public should continue to watch for the snails and it is imperative suspects are reported to the FDACS Division of Plant Industry Helpline, 1-888-397-1517.