Invasive Giant Land Snails Spotted Again in Florida

The destructive mollusks triggered a quarantine in one county.

Giant African land snail - Achatina fulica
Henrik Sorensen / Getty Images

Reaching nearly 8 inches long and about the size of a fist, giant African land snails are hard to miss. The invasive species have been spotted again in Florida, prompting a partial quarantine in one county.

The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS) confirmed that the destructive snails were found in the New Port Richey area of Pasco County. The group enacted a quarantine for part of the county in late June, which means residents are not allowed to move any of the snails, or any materials like soil, plants, or lawn waste into or out of the area.

The snail is considered one of the most damaging in the world. It eats at least 500 types of plants, which means it could critically affect agriculture and natural areas in the state. The snail can damage stucco and plaster structures. They also carry a parasite called rat lungworm, which can cause meningitis in people.

The giant African land snail is believed to have come from pets that were released into the wild. They are also believed to have been accidentally imported into the U.S. when traveling on cargo from other countries.

One snail reproduces quickly, producing about 2,500 eggs in a year. They can have eggs every few months. They grow up to 8 inches long and about 5 inches in diameter.

A full-grown snail has seven to nine whorls or spirals. It has a primarily brown shell with dark stripes that cover at least half the animal’s length.

The Snails Return

This isn’t the first time the snails have been confronted in the Sunshine State.

Giant African land snails were first detected in 1969 and wiped out in 1975. They were spotted again in 2011 and eradicated a decade later in 2021. Before this most recent visit, the last live snail was collected in Miami-Dade County in December 2017.

The snails are also currently found in Hawaii and some parts of the Caribbean.

The snail does best in tropical and subtropical regions but can also survive in cold weather. It becomes slow and sluggish when found in cold conditions, entering almost a hibernation state until temperatures rise.

The snail (Achatina fulica) is native to East Africa

Lack of Enemies

The snail was recently spotted in Florida by a master gardener. Residents in Florida are being asked to report any sightings of the large invaders.

Because the snails can carry harmful organisms, residents are warned not to touch the animals or their mucus. People are cautioned to wear gloves when handling the snails and to wash their hands thoroughly after.

FDACS is treating properties in the area with the pesticide metaldehyde. The pesticide is approved by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to be used in residential areas to control snails and slugs.

In their natural habitat, these snails are hunted by predators including many species of rodents, wild boars, terrestrial crustaceans, and other species of snails. However, in their new invasive habitat, the snail has few natural enemies.

View Article Sources
  1. "Giant African Land Snail." Florida Department of Agriculture Consumer Services.

  2. "Achatina fulica (Giant African Land Snail)." Center for Agriculture Bioscience International.

  3. "Achatina fulica; Giant African Snail." Animal Diversity Web.

  4. "Giant African Snail." United States Department of Agriculture.