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The Giant African Land Snail: What You Need To Know

a giant African land snail
Giant African Land Snails are an invasive species that can cause property damage and disrupt agriculture. While they originated in Africa, they are now found worldwide. Infestations are extremely serious.
These snails prefer warm and humid climates, which is why they are most often found in the southeastern states of America. Currently, a new Giant African Land Snail population has been discovered in Pasco County, Florida. This is the third time that the state has dealt with an infestation.
Florida residents should understand the risks of a Giant African Land Snail infestation and learn how to identify these pests. This guide will break down their appearance, habitats, mating habits, reproduction cycle and more. It will also cover the previous infestations in Florida and what the state is currently doing to eradicate these pests again.

What Do Giant African Land Snails Look Like?

As you can probably tell from their name, Giant African Land Snails are one of the largest types of snails. Adults can grow to around eight inches long with a five-inch diameter. Their size is one way to tell them apart from other types of snails.
Another distinguishing factor is their shells. Giant African Land Snails have large brown shells with dark brown stripes that run lengthwise. Their hard shells also contain spirals, known as whorls. Adult Giant African Land Snails can have between seven and nine large whorls.

What Do Giant African Land Snails Eat?

Giant African Land Snails are a threat to your property because they eat over 500 types of plants. They do not care whether a plant is living or dead. In Florida, these pests can cause severe damage to natural environments and farmlands, as well as private lawns and gardens.
Plants that are common feeding grounds for these snails include peas, melons, beans, cucumbers and nuts. However, they also like bark, seaweed, stems and other plant matter.
Giant African Land Snails need plenty of calcium to grow sturdy shells. If they cannot access enough calcium from plant food, they will eat bones, animal carcasses and even other types of snails. Sand and small stones can also provide them with extra calcium.
The eating habits of Giant African Land Snails do not only impact your outdoor spaces. They can cause structural damage to your home, especially to plaster and stucco materials.

Do Giant African Land Snails in Florida Carry Diseases?

While Giant African Land Snails are not poisonous, they carry several diseases that are unsafe for humans to contract. The most common disease they carry is a parasite called rat lungworm, which causes meningitis in humans.
These large snails also carry other types of bacteria, such as salmonella, that they can transmit to humans. Humans can contract diseases from eating and simply handling Giant African Land Snails. This is why you should not handle these snails without wearing gloves.

The Ideal Habitat for the Giant African Land Snail

Giant African Land Snails are originally from African countries such as Kenya, Somalia and Mozambique. However, they are now found all over the world. In the United States, Giant African Land Snails are most common in Florida.
They prefer warm and extremely humid climates, which is why they love the Sunshine State. These large snails typically live in forests, along rivers and around wetlands. However, they are also found in plantations, gardens, agricultural areas and even urban areas.
While they prefer shrubbery and humid climates, Giant African Land Snails are durable and adaptable. They can survive temperate climates and even cold locations. However, they become more sluggish in colder climates.
The humid climate in Florida makes for an ideal home for Giant African Land Snails. They were eradicated from Florida twice before: once in 1969 and again in 2017. Unfortunately, the invasive species has made another comeback.
In June of 2022, Giant African Land Snails were found in Pasco County, which is just north of Tampa. In July 2022, the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services research laboratories confirmed that the new infestation carried the rat lungworm parasite.
Pasco County homeowners need to know that the current infestation of Giant African Land Snails varies slightly in their appearance from previous infestations. They have lighter brown snails and milky white flesh bodies. These snails are the Albino African Giant Land Snails.
a giant african land snail in grass

Giant African Land Snails in Florida

As mentioned above, Giant African Land Snails were first discovered in Florida in 1969. The state spent $1 million to eradicate them, and it took almost a decade to fully wipe out the invasive species.

The snails came back in 2017, and this time the state spent $23 million to eradicate them over ten years. It is currently unknown how the Giant African Land Snail population makes its way to Florida. Owning the snails as a pet is illegal, as is importing them without the proper permits.

In June 2022, Giant African Land Snails were once again discovered in Florida, this time in Pasco County. Since then, the state discovered over 1400 snails. The state set up a quarantine zone to make it illegal to move them out of Pasco County.

It is worth noting that this new Giant African Land Snail infestation is different from previous ones. Instead of having a dark gray or brown body, the most recent snail population have cream-colored bodies.

This color is more common in the illegal pet trade industry. This is where this current infestation was suspected to originate.

The state of Florida is taking a multi-step approach to dealing with the most recent Giant African Land Snail infestation. For the next year and a half, all properties where the snails are found will be treated with a snail and slug solution called metaldehyde.

Specially trained dogs are also used to sniff out the snails. Once the last snail is eradicated, the state will continue monitoring the properties for the next two years.

If you live in or near Pasco County, Florida and see a Giant African Land Snail, contact the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. Remember that you should not touch or move the snails since they could carry dangerous diseases.

The Breeding Habits of Giant African Land Snails

Giant African Land Snails are eager breeders, which is one reason why they are an invasive species. The snails are hermaphrodites, meaning they have both male and female reproductive organs.

They can technically fertilize themselves, but most snails still rely on a partner for fertilization. However, during intercourse, both snails can technically fertilize each other, although it does not always happen that way.

Breeding usually takes place at night, and the snails lay eggs between one to three weeks after intercourse. Each snail can lay 100 to 500 eggs per reproductive cycle. They hide the eggs in a nest that is either underground or covered in rocks or shrubbery.

The eggs hatch around two weeks after laying. The parent snails do not provide any care to the newly hatched snails.

Adult Giant African Land Snails can lay eggs around six times per year. On average, they lay around 200 eggs each time, equally 1200 eggs in one year. When it comes to hatching, these snails have a high success rate, which is why their populations grow so rapidly.

a giant african land snail

What Do Giant African Land Snail Eggs Look Like?

Giant African Land Snails eggs are white or yellow-colored and between five and six millimeters in diameter. They can lay eggs every two to three months. Since these snails lay around 200 eggs per reproductive cycle, you will always see a lot of them together.

However, Giant African Land Snails often lay their eggs in underground nests or hide them in the shrubbery. If you see their eggs on your property in Florida, contact the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services right away.

What Should Florida Residents Do About Giant African Land Snails?

As a Florida resident, it’s important to understand the risks involved in a Giant African Land Snail infestation. These pests are big eaters and can damage the Florida ecosystem, agricultural systems and private properties.

Knowing how to identify these pests by their appearance, habitats, and breeding habits is an important part of controlling the infestation. However, if you see a Giant African Land Snail on your Florida property, remember not to touch it as it can carry serious diseases that are dangerous to humans.

It is easy to feel overwhelmed by the risk of discovering Giant African Land Snails on your property in Florida. You can rest assured knowing that the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services is on top of the recent infestation. They have quarantined the properties where the snails are so that the infestation cannot continue to spread. Their multi-step strategy to eradicate the snails has worked twice before, and it will work again.

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