Slow-moving fast food
South Florida is fighting a growing infestation of one of the world’s most destructive invasive species: the giant African land snail, which can grow as big as a rat and gnaw through stucco and plaster.
More than 1,000 of the mollusks are being caught each week in Miami-Dade and 117,000 in total since the first snail was spotted by a homeowner in September 2011, said Denise Feiber, a spokeswoman for the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.
Residents will soon likely begin encountering them more often, crunching them underfoot as the snails emerge from underground hibernation at the start of the state’s rainy season in just seven weeks, Feiber said…
A typical snail can produce about 1,200 eggs a year and the creatures are a particular pest in homes because of their fondness for stucco, devoured for the calcium content they need for their shells…
The last known Florida invasion of the giant mollusks occurred in 1966, when a boy returning to Miami from a vacation in Hawaii brought back three of them, possibly in his jacket pockets. His grandmother eventually released the snails into her garden where the population grew in seven years to 17,000 snails. The state spent $1 million and 10 years eradicating them.
Feiber said many people unfamiliar with the danger viewed the snails as cute pets.
“They’re huge, they move around, they look like they’re looking at you … communicating with you, and people enjoy them for that,” Feiber said. “But they don’t realize the devastation they can create if they are released into the environment where they don’t have any natural enemies and they thrive.”
Though I prefer sea snails/scungilli and conch, many varieties of snails are a taste-tempting treat. Never had a chance to be told they were something not worth eating because – when I was a kid – our family shared a duplex home with our landlady who was French. She kept a terrarium of snails in her kitchen for special occasions.