Florida fight against the creeping invasion of giant snails


For the second time in 50 years, Florida is facing an invasion of giant snails. Originating in the humid regions of West Africa, these molluscs devour hundreds of plants including peanuts and melon. A major challenge for the second agricultural state in the United States.

It can reach the size of a basketball, devouring hundreds of types of plants and can be dangerous if you eat it. This is the giant African snail. And it invades a part of Florida for the second time in 50 years.

The elimination is not easy and takes time. Since the discovery of snail glutton in Miami in 2011, Florida has already spent $ 11 million to eradicate the giant snails.

Up to 1,200 eggs per person per year

These molluscs breed in mass. They are hermaphroditic and lay up to 1,200 eggs per person per year.

They also managed to escape the poison pellets – that kill in 95-100% of cases – by climbing trees, says Mary Yong Cong, a scientist from the Florida Department of Agriculture, which to better understand and know the enemy, warned a few specimens in his office.

“They are very curious,” said she observing snail occupying the entire palm of his hand as he tends his horns towards his interlocutor. These snails also hibernate underground, making them hard to spot.

Ten years to overcome

At the last invasion in 1966, it took nearly ten years to overcome. In an attempt to win the war, the authorities have set up a hotline number where you can report a meeting with the animal. A team, protected by gloves and rakes army, then comes back.

The ministry also released the dogs literally. Two labradors who set out to stop when they detect snails. They are also less used to track than to confirm that all were killed after a chemical eradication campaign, says Omar Garcia, one of the handlers.

Until 2014, those responsible for the eradication thought they had made progress. But in September 2014, they discovered in an exclusive area of ​​Miami a house practically conquered by gastropods, with 5,000 specimens living inside and in the garden. “A paradise for snails” never seen before, says Mary Yong Cong.


158,000 eliminated snails

Although 158,000 snails were eliminated in the last four years, the authorities may declare Florida free giant snail that if any of them is found in the wild for a period of two years.

The stakes are high for the second agricultural state in the United States, after California. These snails originating in the humid regions of West Africa, devouring hundreds of plants including peanuts and melon. “They are a danger to humans and agriculture in Florida. We can not let them happen again,” said Mark Fagan, spokesman of the Ministry of Agriculture Florida.

The sector weighs a hundred billion dollars in the economy of the State and represents tens of thousands of jobs. The giant snails can also carry a parasite that can give a rare form of meningitis to humans, although for now nobody seems to have been infected.