Giant African land snail spotted in Florida, section of county under quarantine: Officials

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(NEW YORK) — A portion of a Florida county has been placed under quarantine as state officials work to get rid of a giant African land snail (GALS), the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS) said Tuesday.

The quarantine comes weeks after state officials found the snail in the Miramar area of Broward County, Florida, according to FDACS.

Giant African land snails are considered detrimental to agriculture, the FDACS said.

The snail is known to eat at least 500 different plant species that are deemed economically important, including, “breadfruit, cassava, cocoa, papaya, peanut, rubber, most varieties of beans, peas, cucumbers, melons and plants of horticultural, cultural and medicinal value,” according to the United States Department of Agriculture.

Under the quarantine rule, it is illegal for people to move the giant African land snail from the impacted area without an agreement in place, the FDACS said.

People are also not allowed to remove affected plants, soil, yard waste, debris, compost, or building materials from the quarantine area, according to Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services’ rules.

State officials will use the pesticide metaldehyde to treat the area, as it’s approved to be used in a selection of vegetables, crops, fruits and some plants in residential areas, the FDACS said.

People living in the designated treatment area will be notified by state officials at least one day in advance before the pesticide treatment takes place, officials said.

“Metaldehyde works by disrupting the mucus production ability of snails and slugs,” the FDACS said on its website. “This reduces their digestion and mobility, and makes them susceptible to dehydration. Snails and slugs that have eaten metaldehyde often seek hiding places, become inactive and begin to die within days.”

GALS were first introduced into Miami in 1966 and by 1973, over 18,000 snails, alongside their eggs, were discovered and destroyed, according to the USDA.

The snails were declared eradicated twice in Florida, first in 1975 after being spotted in 1969, and a second time in 2021, after being seen in Miami-Dade County in 2011, according to state officials.

The giant African land snail isn’t the only pest harmful to agriculture.

Scientists and various state agriculture departments urged people who came across the spotted lanternfly last year to squish it because of its harmful effect on agriculture.

The spotted lanternfly originated in Asia, but was first found in the U.S. in Pennsylvania in 2014, and soon after in other states in the Northeast, including Connecticut, Delaware, Maryland, New Jersey, New York and Virginia.

The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services didn’t immediately respond to ABC News’ request on how many miles of the area was placed under quarantine and how long it would last.

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