Don’t worry, Florida’s giant African snail problem is totally under control

Florida has a lot on its plate these days: flakka users, leprosy-carrying armadillos, city bus headbutters, pathological gerrymanderers, and sex-on-the-beach-in-public-havers.

But it soon may have one less thing to worry about, if we are to believe state officials.

On Wednesday, Adam Putnam, commissioner of Florida’s Department of Agriculture—website:—announced that more than 159,000 giant African land snails (GALS) “have been eliminated” since they were first found four years ago. The number of snails collected weekly has dropped from several thousand, at one point, to single digits, and none have been found in 21 out of the 29 core invasion areas in the past year.


The snails have an origin story that would only shock anyone not from the Sunshine State: In 2010, a Miami religious figure named Charles L. Stewart had them imported with the goal of making his followers drink the snails’ mucus—authorities were investigating whether a woman had illicitly snuck the snails under her dresses on flights from to Miami. As of Nov. 2014, no individuals had been charged in the case.

“Followers said they got violently ill, losing weight and developing strange lumps in their stomachs,” The Associated Press reported at the time.

That’s just a fraction of the snails’ abilities. According to the state, they devour stucco and plaster, eat 500 different plant species, and carry parasites that contain meningitis. They can grow up to eight inches in length, and can live as long as nine years. Native to East Africa, they have no natural predators in America and reproduce exponentially, up to 1,200 more snails per year.

“Giant African land snails threaten the crops, structures and residents of Florida, and we’ve gone to great lengths to find and eradicate them,” said Commissioner Adam H. Putnam. It has spent millions on the problem.

Thanks to its tropical climate and proximity to foreign territories, Florida remains home to hundreds of non-native species that enter the state on a seemingly continuous basis, though it can take years to discover they are problematic; the state recently issued a warning about Argentinian Tegu lizards that were believed to have been introduced in 2008.

So if you’re planning on adding to this list, at least make it something with an average land-speed of Miami traffic so it can be tracked down faster.