In Florida, Giant Snails Are Back In A Big Way

As the rainy season begins, even more of the mollusks are expected to emerge from hibernation and start munching...on plants, stucco, plaster, and even concrete.

What's the Latest Development?

Florida's rainy season is about to begin, and with it officials are expecting an increase in the number of African giant land snails emerging from hibernation. These mollusks can grow to the size of a rat and can appear to be looking at people, which endears them to an unsuspecting public. However, they have a wide and varied diet that includes at least 500 varieties of plants as well as building materials ranging from stucco to concrete. They can also carry a type of lungworm that could be dangerous to humans, although no cases have been reported in the US so far. Earlier this month, experts met to figure out the best ways to get rid of the snails, and authorities are using buses and billboards to warn residents.

What's the Big Idea?

African giant land snails last landed on Florida's shores in 1966, when a boy brought some home from Hawaii. It took the state 10 years, at a cost of $1 million, to eradicate them. Since their reappearance in late 2011, officials in Miami-Dade County have caught an average of 1,000 snails a week. Although a religious group that uses the snails in its rituals is suspected of having brought them in, they may have arrived the same way most exotic species do: as stowaways in freight or passenger luggage.

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