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Giant African Snail FAQs
What Does the Giant African Snail Look Like?
The giant African snail reaches almost 8 inches (20 cm) in length and 5 inches (13 cm) in maximum diameter. It is one of the world’s largest land snails—about the size of an average adult fist. When fully grown, its shell consists of seven to nine whorls, with a long greatly swollen body whorl. The brownish shell with darker brown lengthwise stripes covers at least half the length of the snail.
When was the Giant African Snail First Found in the United States?
Believed to be originally from East Africa, the giant African snail has established itself throughout the IndoPacific Basin, including the Hawaiian islands. In 1966 a boy smuggled three Giant African Snails into Florida from Hawaii. His grandmother later released the snails into their backyard. Seven years later, there were more than 18,000 adult snails and thousands of eggs. There have been recent reports of these snails being illegally imported by individuals for classroom exhibits, as pets or for food.
Where is the Giant African Snail Currently Found in the United Sates?
The giant African snail is currently found in Florida.
What Types of Plants Does the Giant African Snail Infest?
The giant African snail feeds on more than 500 types of plants, including: peanuts, beans, peas, cucumbers, and melons. When fruits and vegetables are not available, the snails will eat a wide variety of ornamental plants, tree bark, and even paint and stucco on houses.
What Kind of Damage Can the Giant African Snail Cause?
Giant African Snails can cause extensive damage to plants in tropical and subtropical agricultural systems. They can also do harm to the agricultural environment and can carry diseases that are harmful to humans. These diseases can be contacted through handling live snails, close contact with the snail’s mucous, or by eating improperly cooked snail meat.
Are Quarantine and/or Eradication Programs in Place for the Giant African Snail?
Yes, APHIS and the State of Florida are collaborating to eradicate GAS from Miami-Dade, Florida.
What Methods Are Used to Control the Giant African Snail?
Application of a molluscicide (iron phosphate) which contains a bait used to attract the snail to eat, and physical removal by gloved hand. Note: Be extremely cautious around these snails. They may carry organisms that can cause diseases in humans. These organisms can be transferred by ingesting improperly cooked snail meat or by handling live snails and allowing their mucus to contact human mucous membranes such as those in the eyes, nose, and mouth.
What Can We Do?
Possession of the giant African snail is illegal in the United States because of their threat to our agriculture. These snails are also known to carry organisms that can cause diseases in humans. These organisms can be transferred by ingesting improperly cooked snail meat or by handling live snails and allowing their mucus to contact human mucous membranes such as those in the eyes, nose and mouth. If you have one, do not release it into the environment or give it away. Instead, please immediately report it to the U. S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) office in your state. Do not handle the snails or slugs unless you are wearing gloves.