18.10.11

And You Thought YOUR Snails Were Big.........


Giant African Land Snail

Recently there has been an incidence of Giant African Land Snails abbreviated as GALS, in the Coral Gables neighborhood in Miami. The local residents have seen a few snails here and there, but as with all introduced pests of any size, it is cause for caution and observation. 

Make no mistake about the creature, it is a large snail, with a shell measuring over 6 inches long. As with many snails, it has an appetite for plants, and this species can eat a LOT of plant material. It would be bad enough if the snail just ate plants, but this species also carries a disease that can affect your health: meningitis. The snails are available through pet stores worldwide, and are used in religious ceremonies, especially by Caribbean religions. After a boy smuggled a few snails into Miami as pets in the 1970s, they quickly became a serious pest. The Department of Agriculture eradicated them in 3 years after a protracted program of hand-catching the snails using a house-by-house search method. Within the last 6 months, the snails have been seen in local areas, and the search begins again for these invasive pests. 

Fortunately, the snails can be eradicated using the same control protocols as other snails. Snail baits and organic snail controls will work but you must use them diligently to get the full degree of control. This is one pest which we need to leave the state permanently. I do not support the idea of eradicating all snails, but several species in Miami are serious pests, and we don't need a Godzilla version of a pest to start a family in our neighborhoods. 

This species is another example of how an escaped pet can wreak havoc in our area. South Florida has the warmest and rainiest climate on the continent. We are unfortunately the crossroads of animal and plant trade for the US, and both of them "escape" into the Everglades, as well as into other states. Several excellent examples of this are Imported Fire Ants, Asian Cycad Scale, Old World Climbing Fern, and Hydrilla Fern. We enjoy this amenable climate, but we need to protect it far better than we do. The exotic pet trade has allowed many animals into homes, and then into local environments, including iguanas, pythons, and monitor lizards. Giant Land Snails are just as unwelcome, and should be controlled diligently. 

Craig Morell
Pinecrest Gardens                           

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