State agriculture workers have collected 44,000 giant African land snails in South Florida so far, but the battle against the shelled creatures continues.
The snails are a nonnative species that has infested the southern edge of Miami. So far, officials said, they have found 44,000 of the snails.
"They feed on 500 different kinds of plants, so it is a threat to agriculture and homeowners' lawns," said Florida Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam. "They feed on stucco. so it is a threat to your property."
"Last week when it rained, I came out and I saw so many that I took a plastic bag and I had more than 40 of them," said resident Reinaldo Rodriguez.
Rodriguez said he called the state agriculture hotline when he saw the snails about six months ago, and inspectors have been out several times bait them with poison and collect them.
The good news is the workers are finding fewer and fewer snails. The last time they were at Rodriguez's home, they found four 5-gallon buckets full of snails. This time, they collected just three or four bags full.
Also, the snails they are finding are smaller.
"My main concern that I have is I have a kid, a 4 1/2-year-old kid," Rodriguez said.
"They carry a parasite in some instances which is a potential meningitis threat to human health," Putnam said.
One snail can lay up to 1,200 eggs a year, so state inspectors are taking the threat very seriously. They believe the pest was actually smuggled into South Florida on purpose.
"There is some usage of the snail by different sects of the Santeria practice, and they are thought to have some value medicinally or otherwise," Putnam said.
Officials said homeowners who have the snails on their properties can buy a nontoxic poison bait called Sluggo for about $15 at Home Depot or Lowe's. They said 2.5 pounds of the bait will cover 2,500 feet.
Anyone who thinks they may have seen a giant African land snail is asked to call the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services at 888-397-1517.
Click here for more detailed information on the giant African land snail.