Giant African Land Snails Return To South Florida

CORAL GABLES (CBS4) – They’re back. Giant African land snails which once took a decade to eradicate from South Florida have returned.

Giant African land snails, considered to be one of the most damaging snails in the world, have been found in the Coral Gables area of Miami-Dade County, according to the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.

The Giant African land snail is one of the most damaging snails in the world because they consume at least 500 different types of plants, can cause structural damage to plaster and stucco on houses, and can carry a parasitic worm that can lead to meningitis in humans. The snails transmit diseases to humans through consumption of raw or improperly cooked meat or by contact with human mucous membranes such as eyes, nose and mouth.

“Florida faces constant challenges from invasive pests and diseases that arrive through cargo, travelers’ luggage, air currents, and plant and animal agricultural products,” said Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam. “Enlisting the help of the public in the early detection of these pests and diseases is critical to containing and ultimately eradicating them in our state.”

For the last several decades, there was no known giant African snail in Florida. However, the state is no stranger to this massive mollusk. In 1966, a Miami boy smuggled three snails into South Florida from a trip to Hawaii as pets and his grandmother subsequently released them into her garden. Seven years later, more than 18,000 snails were found. It took 10 years and more than $1 million to eradicate this pest from Florida. This is the only known successful giant African snail eradication program on record.

The Giant African snail is one of the largest land snails in the world growing up to 8 inches in length and 4.5 inches in diameter.  When full grown, the shell consists of seven to nine whorls (spirals), with a long and greatly swollen body whorl. The brownish shell covers at least half the length of the snail. Each snail can live as long as nine years and contains both female and male reproductive organs. After a single mating session, each snail can produce 100 to 400 eggs. In a typical year, every mated adult lays about 1,200 eggs.

Jason Kesser saw the snails for the first time near his mother’s house in Miami.

“It was like a dream or something. It was like a mythic creature,” he said.

He says it wasn’t long before he saw many more of the snails “there’s a tremendous amount of them all over all of our plants.”   But agriculture experts say the snails don’t just damage plants.  Dr. Paul Skelley of the Florida Department of Agriculture says the snails “can actually become so numerous it becomes traffic hazards.   I’ve heard of the shells puncturing tires. You get them in your lawn you run your lawn mower over it you’ve got shrapnel.”

Teams from the Florida Department of Agriculture and USDA are going door to door in areas where the snails have been found, collecting and quarantining them.

The snails are originally from East Africa and established itself throughout the Indo-Pacific Basin, including the Hawaiian Islands. This pest has also been introduced into the Caribbean islands of Martinique and Guadeloupe with recent detections in Saint Lucia and Barbados.

Giant African land snails are illegal to import into the United States without a permit and currently no permits have been issued.

Anyone who believes they may have seen a Giant African land snail or signs of its presence should call the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services toll-free at 888-397-1517 to make arrangements to have the snail collected.

To preserve the snail sample, wear gloves and put the snail in a zip lock bag, seal it and place it in a bucket or plastic container. Do not release it or give it away.

More from Lisa Cilli
  • Doug

    Get out the garlic butter

    • BeholdersEye

      I’m all for it…let’s make them the side order with gator, snake, and goat.

  • james

    Maybe Doug didn’t read about the parasitic worm that causes menegitis. Feel free Doug to eat as many as you like…. how about having them raw. Kosher rules were established for a reason.

    • upthecreek

      relax James..everything will be OK

    • Doug

      Maybe james should grow a sense of humor

      • Mark Matis

        Nah, some folks just can’t handle that…

  • changomango

    OH NOOOOOOOOOOOOO, Not another one of Obamas relatives leaching off our resources!

  • Wiglaf

    Garlic butter implies sauteeing. That would kill the parasitic worm IF the snail had the parasite, james. Kosher rules have little to do with food safety today.

  • JugBottle Darrel

    And salmon can give you worms too… that’s why we COOK food before we eat it bro. I’ve been eating AL snails for years they are delicious

  • glenp

    Guam had them from WWII Japanese. The snails have an enemy worm that kills the snails now Guam has no African snails

  • twana j

    wonder if it has a birth certificate ?

  • Ro Syrus

    How much of this article was ripped straight from wikipediA?

  • dan

    We have the this snails on Maui!

    • Will Kane

      Evidently, you don’t have any English courses in the schools there.

  • Reed

    During my time in Liberia I saw these guys everywhere. I got to say they taste fantastic.

  • Phil

    That guy only has three fingers

    • idiotmitten

      Cartoon character.

  • Jim Vernon

    Just one more thing from Africa that destroys stuff….

    • upthecreek


      great comment and how true it is

  • snailbagger

    A couple of those critters have been spotted at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave.

  • StopWhiningAlready

    I believe they prefer to be called Giant African-American Land Snails now…

  • More

    If people would quit trying to scare people about the parasites, etc. they would be hunted for food and become scarce. Any wild animal is a risk for spreading parasites or disease and should be properly handled and prepared. There are great recipes for cooking these snails up all over the internet.

  • Amanda Lang

    Put them on those GOP transports and truck those suckers all over the US. They can feed on the people who die without insurance, jobs, food, or homes. Good GOP/Tea Bagger plan!! The kind of pro-active thinking I’ve come to expect from the once “Grand Old Party” that has now been reduced to a cult of Charismatic Christian Crusading Killers selling “social Darwinism” as the new 21st century snake oil.

    • CTM

      Are you a teacher, or do you work for the Govt?

  • Will Kane

    There has been a huge one spotted at City Hall, he is in the mayor’s office!

    On a serious note, if you sprinkle salt on them they dissovle.

  • glenp

    salt won’t dissolve them another urban legend

  • GZimm

    Salt dries them up; they then die. They do a lot of damage in the garden. We had them in Kenya, when we lived there.

  • Bob

    We had a horrendous problem with the African Snail in Guam decades ago.
    The biologist at University of Guam imported a small french snail that ate the African snails. Once the African snails were eradicated, the french snail died off. Perhaps Florida should contact Guam officials for advice

  • oldtimer

    They need to contact Guamn. Many years ago a parasite was manufactured and used to eradicate the sanils left after the Japanese occupation. I can vouch that they work and after the last snail is gone they go dormant untill another snail shows up.
    UOG Guam would have the info.

blog comments powered by Disqus
Weather Forecast 24/7
Thanksgiving Guide

Listen Live