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Invasive snail makes US debut in South Florida

The FDACS says the invasive pest has the potential to "cause serious health implications" for Floridians.
Credit: Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services

MIAMI-DADE, Fla. — As if 2020 did not have enough surprises and curveballs, an invasive snail located in the U.S. for the first time was discovered in-- you guessed it, Florida.

The horntail snail, or Macrochlamys indica, was positively identified by the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDCAS) in Miami-Dade County.

It was spotted by a gastropod enthusiast who then sent the snail to the University of Florida for identification. The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service and the FDACS Division of Plant Industry followed suit with positive identification, according to a release.

“The horntail snail is an invasive pest with the potential to cause serious health implications for Floridians,” Commissioner Nikki Fried said. “Our Division of Plant Industry and essential industry partners are continuing to monitor this threat and working towards a plan to stop the horntail snail’s spread into other areas of Florida.”

Since identification, a program to survey, control and eradicate the pest has been put in place to help stop the spread. Multiple "positive sites" have been discovered across the county and FDACS is in the process of treating the affected areas.

So what does a horntail snail do? Well, the FDCAS says it is a well-known pest in India that feeds on a variety of commercial crops, including lettuce, beans, yams and chrysanthemums. 

FDACS finds the dime-sized snails are most active at night, have an amber-colored shell, prefer damp and cool locations and have a flap of flesh that extends backward onto or around its shell when relaxed.

As with other terrestrial snails in the state, FDCAS says the horntail snail has the potential to be an intermediate host of rat lungworm, which can cause meningitis in humans. 

If you find yourself in a situation where you need to handle a horntail snail, wearing gloves is advised.

You can learn more about the horntail snail here

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