NEW PORT RICHEY, Fla. — Officials in Florida’s Pasco County have enacted a quarantine after finding a snail described as one of the world’s most damaging.
Florida’s Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services said that a Pasco County master gardener reported seeing a giant African land snail in the New Port Richey area on June 23. As a result, FDACS’s Division of Plant Industry has put a quarantine in place and is surveying the area. FDACS crews are also treating properties with a snail bait insecticide that is labeled by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for residential use.
A map from the agency shows the quarantine area, which is in the southwestern corner of Pasco County.
The pesticide being used will cause the snails to die within days, agency officials told WFLA.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture said “scientists consider the giant African snail (GAS) … to be one of the most damaging snails in the world. It is known to consume at least 500 different species of economically important agricultural plants, including breadfruit, cassava, cocoa, papaya, peanut, rubber, and most varieties of beans, peas, cucumbers, and melons, as well as plans of horticultural, cultural and medicinal value.”
Florida officials warn that the giant African snail can carry the parasite rat lungworm, which is known to cause meningitis in humans. According to the Florida Department of Health, people can get infected by the parasite by eating raw or undercooked snails, which may be found in small fragments on unwashed produce.
State officials told WFLA that the giant African land snail was previously found in Florida in the late 1960s to mid-1970s.
In 2021, a blog post from the Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences at the University of Florida announced that the species had been declared eradicated from both Broward and Miami-Dade counties. That eradication came after the species was detected 10 years prior in 2011 in Miami-Dade County. According to state agriculture officials, “the last live snail in Florida was collected in Miami-Dade County in December of 2017.”
Florida officials said that giant African land snails are illegal to import or possess in the United States without a permit, and should never be handled without gloves.