Giant African land snails put Florida town in quarantine

Giant snails that can grow up to the size of a rat have been reported in a town in Florida.

The invasive species, native to Africa, carry the parasite rat lungworm, known to cause meningitis in humans. 

On June 23, 2022, the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS) confirmed the detection of the giant African land snail in the New Port Richey area of Pasco County.

The area was quarantined the next day.

Unlike a Covid-19 quarantine, this one means residents are prohibited from moving plants, soil, yard waste, debris, compost and building materials outside the designated zone. 

‘The giant African land snail is one of the most damaging snails in the world and consumes at least 500 different types of plants,’ said the FDACS.

The snails could be devastating to local agriculture and natural areas as they cause extensive damage to tropical and subtropical environments.

The species was first discovered in Florida in 2011, and has cost officials $10.8 million (£8.9 million) so far.

These snails reproduce quickly, making about 1,200 eggs in a year.

They’re also tough to eradicate because they do not have any natural predators.

Each snail can live up to nine years and grow to be eight inches in length, roughly the size of an adult hand.

The US Agriculture Department started the treatment to eradicate this pest last week using a pesticide called metaldehyde that’s known for controlling snails and slugs.

Property owners inside the treatment area will be notified in person or by posted notice at least 24 hours in advance of the planned pesticide treatment.

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