Numerous species of exotic snails are serious pests of plants and threats to public health. All snails in the subfamily Achatininae, including the giant African snail (GAS) (Lissachatina fulica), are regulated plant pests.
Scientists consider the giant African snail (GAS), Lissachatina fulica (Bowdich), to be one of the most damaging snails in the world. It is known to consume at least 500 different species of economically important agricultural plants, including breadfruit, cassava, cocoa, papaya, peanut, rubber, and most varieties of beans, peas, cucumbers, and melons, as well as plants of horticultural, cultural and medicinal value. The snail is a vector of plant pathogens as well as the Rat lungworm, Angiostrongylus cantonensis (Chen), the nematode parasite that causes eosinophilic meningitis in humans and livestock.
Originally from eastern Tanzania and eastern Kenya, L. fulica has established itself throughout the South Asia, Southeast Asia including southern China, the Indo-Pacific Basin island groups, including Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands, American Samoa and the Hawaiian Islands. This mollusk is now established throughout many of the Caribbean Islands, much of South America, and most recently has been introduced to Costa Rica.
In 1966, the giant African snail was introduced into downtown Miami, Florida. By 1973, more than 18,000 snails had been found and destroyed along with thousands of eggs, and the snail was declared eradicated by 1975. The eradication program in Florida cost $1 million (approximately $3 million in 2021 dollars).
In 2011, the snail was re-introduced to Miami, Florida, being detected in September of that year. APHIS, in partnership with the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, successfully eradicated this invasive species, officially declaring it eradicated in September 2021. Over 168,000 snails and innumerable eggs were destroyed from over 700 properties at a cost of more than $23 million.
State and Federal officials are responding to a new introduction of the invasive snails—. The giant African snails detected in New Port Richey in Pasco County, FL, are unrelated to the population of giant African snails eradicated from Broward and Miami Dade counties last year. States and U.S. Caribbean Territories with suitable habitat for the giant African snail include: Alabama, Arkansas, Arizona, California, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Michigan, Nevada, New Mexico, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Oregon, South Carolina, Texas, Virginia, and Washington.
The latest infestation may have resulted from the release of pet snails into the area. Owning a giant African snail as a pet is illegal. Anyone who is interested in keeping an invertebrate pet should first visit our Invertebrate Pets web page. Many imported invertebrates are illegal to own because they could harm agriculture or the environment if they escape or are released.
Melinda Sullivan, Ph.D.
National Operations Manager
Telephone: (970) 494-7580