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Giant African Snails

February 10, 2012 by staff 

Giant African Snails, No one knows how they got there. But an invasion of African giant snails has southern Florida in a panic over potential crop damage, disease and general yuckiness surrounding the slimy gastropods.
The US and Florida departments of agriculture have mobilized 34 agents to battle the infestation and the US Fish & Wildlife Service is heading up an investigation into how the mollusks — which can be up to 20 centimeters (eight inches) long — arrived.

“This is a big snail, a very big snail,” says Suzi Distelberg, a district inspector for the Florida Department of Agriculture, as she probes one of the shells with a gloved hand.

“No it’s not empty, see… eeew. It’s very heavy, you can tell the snail is still in there.

“We’ve been told that they like to eat the stucco off the sides of the houses because it contains calcium, and the calcium helps to build their shells.”

The lissachatina fulica, or giant African land snail, can live up to nine years, and are prolific in reproduction, laying up to 1,200 eggs a year, making it extremely invasive. A single snail can create a mass that invades an entire neighborhood.

Local resident Yolando Garcia Burgos one morning discovered snail excrement on her exterior wall, and ended up collecting 583 of the mollusks in a week, finding them in her bushes, on her grill and in her ivy. State authorities say they have captured 35,000 since the invasion began in September.

But the concern is not simply a question of aesthetics: The snail’s mucus can contain a parasite which transmits a form of meningitis, which is not lethal but can provoke extreme abdominal pain.

The pest is also a threat to agriculture, feasting on some 500 plant varieties including peanuts and melons.

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