33,000 giant African land snails caught in South Florida
MIAMI — Florida agriculture officials say they have captured more than 33,000 giant African land snails since the invasive species was discovered in Miami-Dade County in September. Officials said Tuesday that most were collected after homeowners called the Florida Department of Agriculture Division of Plant Industry's hotline. The land snail, which can grow to 8 inches in length, eats at least 500 different types of plants. It also can carry a parasite that can lead to meningitis in humans. They also can damage plaster and stucco on homes.And they are prolific. The snails can live for nine years and each snail can produce 100 to 400 eggs. In most years, every adult that mates lays about 1,200 eggs, according to the state agriculture department. A previous outbreak and eradication of the African snail was in 1966 when a boy smuggled three of the animals into Miami, the agriculture department said. His grandmother put the snails in her garden and seven years later, more than 18,000 snails were found. As a result, about 17,000 snails were collected over a nine-year eradication program in the 1960s. That cost $1 million and is the only successful giant African land snail eradication program to date. The state and federal departments of agriculture have as many as 200 employees assigned to snail eradication efforts. The state's snail hotline is (888) 397-1517.