(NEW PORT RICHEY, FLA) — An invasive giant African snail that is said to be the most damaging snail in the world is invading Florida yet again. The snail had to be eradicated twice in the last 50 years in Florida, and is now invading the New Port Richey area of Pasco County.
The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS) confirmed there were giant African land snails found in the New Port Richey area on June 23, according to FDACS’ website.
Two days later, a quarantine was issued that prevents residents from moving the snail or related items, like plants and soil, in or out of the designated quarantine area.
There are multiple reasons why these snails pose a threat, according to officials. They eat plants, vegetables, and when they run out of food they can even eat paint off of people’s homes. The snails pose a serious health risk to humans by carrying the parasite rat lungworm, known to cause meningitis in humans.
The snails can produce up to 2,500 eggs per year, so the population is difficult to control, officials said.
Officials are urging residents to not touch these snails if they come across them. Residents who think they have spotted a giant African land snail are asked to call the FDACS hotline.
Now that the county is in quarantine, officials will begin treatment. FDACS said it will treat properties with a metaldehyde-based molluscicide (snail bait). FDACS said it plans to spend three years eradicating the population in Pasco County, using the pesticide metaldehyde to treat the soil.
It is illegal to import or possess these giant African snails in the United States without a permit. FDACS said the population in Pasco County likely originated from the illegal pet trade.