They’re huge and they move around and look like they’re looking at you. South Florida is fighting a growing infestation of one of the world’s most destructive invasive species: the Giant African Land Snail, which can grow as big as a rat and gnaw through stucco and plaster. Florida is used to strange creatures, but the discovery of this non-native animal, a giant snail from East Africa, has got local officials really worried. It is thought to have originated in East Africa, but has since spread through many countries in Southeast Asia and islands in the Pacific Ocean, including the Hawaiian Islands. More recently, this mollusc gained access to South America (Brazil) and the Caribbean islands of Martinique, Guadeloupe, Saint Lucia, Barbados and Saint Martin/Saint Maarten. In 1966 it was found in Miami-Dade County of southern Florida.
The snails attack pretty much anything that’s in their path. Each snail can live as long as nine years. In a typical year, every mated adult lays about 1,200 eggs. Giant African Land Snail grows to a length of nearly 8 inches (20 cm) and a diameter of 5 inches (13 cm). It is conical in shape, tapering to a distinct point at one end, but rounded at the other. Although varied in appearance, this snail typically is light brown, with dark brown stripes.
This creature is a pest in homes because of their fondness for stucco, devoured for the calcium content they need for their shells. The Giant African Land Snail is most abundant in unnatural (disturbed) areas such as gardens. Typically, they have a daytime resting site and then wander out at night to feed. Adults often return to their resting site in the morning, but immature snails are less likely to do so. They normally seek shaded, sheltered resting locations with high humidity, but can climb trees and walls to rest.
Snails are hermaphrodites, which means that they contain both female and male reproductive organs. Upon hatching, young snails remaining in the soil for 1-2 weeks before digging their way to the surface and feeding on decaying plant matter (detritus) and suitable living plants.
These Giant African Land Snails are active over a temperature range of about 48-90°F (9-32°C), but can survive both lower and higher temperatures, sometimes by burrowing into the soil
Snails favor high humidity. Therefore, elimination of mulch, ground cover and other dense vegetation, wood and stones will deny them a moist, sheltering environment. Reducing the amount of irrigation may similarly deny them the moist environment they prefer.
Snails are susceptible to traps. Giant African snail seems to be particularly attracted to banana and papaya fruit, so these can be used as baits to attract them.
Snails often are large enough to be seen easily, so they can be collected by hand. It is important to wear gloves or to use an implement to pick up the snails as some snails can carry diseases transmitted to humans by touch. The Giant African Land Snail also has proven to be injurious by transmitting disease organisms to plants and animals, including humans. It can serve as an intermediate host for rat lungworm, which can cause meningoencephalitis in humans, although no such cases have yet been identified in the United States. If you do collect snails, you can kill them by sealing them in a plastic bag and then placing the bag in a freezer overnight.
If you live in Naples, Bonita Springs, Fort Myers, or anywhere in Southwest Florida and have a problem with Giant African Snails or smaller Florida Brown Snails call Collier Pest Control, 239-455-4300, for a full explanation on our Snail Control Treatment or look us up on our website at collierpestcontrol.com for all our services and information on most of Florida’s problem pests. Remember Florida does not have to be shared with pests.