Scientists say a strange and deceiving sight is invading southwest Florida. The Island Applesnail was probably released in south Florida in the early 1980s by persons with the tropical pet industry, and rapidly expanded throughout the state. Of the four species of Applesnails in Florida, only the Florida Applesnail is a native species, while the other three species are introduced.
Island Applesnails are native to Cuba and Hispaniola Collections have been made in Alabama, Georgia, Hawaii, Louisiana, Oklahoma and South Carolina. It is the principal food of the Everglades Kite and should be considered beneficial. It cannot survive low winter temperatures that occur in the northern tier of Florida counties and northward except where the water is artificially heated by industrial wastewater or in warm springs.
Applesnails are exceptionally well adapted to tropical regions with periods of drought alternated with periods of excessive rainfall. This adaptation is reflected in their life style: moderately amphibious and being equipped with a shell door enabling the snail to close its shell, to prevent drying out while hiding in the mud during dry periods. If adverse conditions occur, Island Applesnails can burrow into sediments, seal the entrance to their shells with the operculum, and remain in this condition for several months.
Island Applesnails are tropical and sub-tropical freshwater snails with the combination of a branchial respiration system comparable with the gills of a fish, at the right side of the snail body, and a lungs, at the left side of the body. They spend the majority of their life under the water. This lung/gill combination expands the action radius of the snail in search for food.
Many applesnails lay grape-like egg clusters of white, green, or pink to red eggs on solid objects above the water line. The females emerge from the water, usually at night, to lay egg masses on stable substrates such as tree trunks, pilings, seawalls, or even plant stems. This remarkable strategy of these aquatic snails protects their eggs against predation by fish and other water inhabitants.
Scientists say these invading Island Applesnails could be extremely dangerous for your family and your pets. “If they break open they have a fluid which carries the actual neurotoxin in it. The eggs also are known to have a very toxic protein that can kill mice in experiments. In addition to the poisonous affects of their eggs, the snails themselves carry a parasite called rat lungworm. This parasite spends a part of its life cycle in applesnails and can infect humans. Watch your pets and kids, because they could actually be toxic snail eggs, if a small child got a hold of it, take them to emergency care.
While elimination of the Island Applesnails by chemical means has been attempted, no effective chemical recommendation has been developed. The most effective management methods are hand or mechanical removal of snails and egg masses. In Florida, some of the natural predators of Applesnails include limpkins, Everglades (snail) kites, raccoons, turtles and alligators. You can scrape off the egg masses and allow them to fall into the water since inundated eggs will not hatch. However, only pink egg masses should be scraped or removed. Egg masses with large, white eggs were laid by the native Florida Applesnail and should be left undisturbed, as they do not pose a threat and are the principal food of the Everglades kite.
If you live in Naples, Bonita Springs, Fort Myers, or anywhere in Southwest Florida and have a problem with these Island Applesnails or smaller Florida Brown Snails call Collier Pest Control, 239-455-4300, for a full explanation on our Snail Repellant 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.