Florida's agriculture faces a severe threat from the invasion of giant African land snails which could have a devastating impact on crops.
Florida is under attack as it faces an invasion by one of the most damaging breeds of snail, the giant African land snail (lissachatina fulica). The prolific breeders can lay 500 eggs at once and grow to a length of eight inches. Hibernating in the Florida winter, the snails have a lifespan of up to a decade.
The Miami Herald reports that homeowners in southwest Miami that are struggling against an invasion, describe the snails as "disgusting," "slithery," "juicy" pests. The snails are more than just a slimy nuisance though as their mucus contains human meningitis. Although not lethal the strain can cause agonising abdominal pain.
The real problem lies in their potential to devastate Florida's agriculture. The giant African snail can receive sustenance from 500 varieties of plants, including peanuts and melons. An earlier invasion of the pests took nine years and one million dollars to eradicate, according to Physorg.
The US and Florida departments of agriculture has set a task force to deal with the pests. Authorities report they have captured 35,000 of the snails since the infestation started in September. The most effective way of dealing with the creatures is to freeze them or drown them in an alcohol solution.
In addition to threatening agriculture and human health, Miami CBS reports the snails can play havoc with the traffic, damage lawn mowers and cause structural damage to homes.