Florida agriculture officials are quarantining a section of Broward County to try to wipe out the giant African land snail, an invasive species that threatens the state’s agriculture and can cause meningitis.
The snails eat more than 500 types of plants, posing a threat to Florida’s important agriculture industry. They carry a parasite that can spread to humans and cause meningitis. They also eat plaster and stucco off buildings.
The shelled invertebrates were first confirmed in Miramar in Broward County on June 2.
The quarantine means that snails, plants, plant parts, soil, yard waste, debris, compost and building materials are illegal to transport in the designated areas without a compliance agreement.
Giant African land snails can reproduce quickly. Each snail possesses both male and female reproductive functions and can produce more than 1,200 eggs yearly and can make up to 500 eggs after just a single mating. The snails can then produce clutches of eggs every two to three months, according to the U.S. Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service.
To exterminate the snails, officials use a water solution partially saturated with the chemical metaldehyde. The metaldehyde impedes the snail’s production of mucus, which in turn leaves it less able to digest and less able to move.
The snail was originally found in southern Florida in 1969 before being eradicated in 1975, but then showed up in Miami-Dade County in 2011 and then Miami-Dade and Broward counties by 2021.