Within the past few years alone, some unique invasive insects and mammals have made headlines across the country. Learn more about these unusual pests from abroad.
Giant African Land Snails
One such invasive species is the giant African land snail. These enormous mollusks are believed to have first been imported as pets and for educational purposes. They began to show up in the wild in Florida in 2011. They can grow to be as large as rats and can live for up to eight years.
According to the Florida Department of Agriculture, the giant snails have voracious appetites and can consume at least 500 different types of plants, making them a serious threat to the agricultural industry. They can also cause structural damage to plaster and stucco and can carry a parasitic nematode that can lead to a rare and serious form of meningitis in humans who touch them. The snails have been known to consume rat feces that contain larval lungworm traces, causing them to harbor the dangerous parasite in their mucus.
Gambian Pouched Rats
Another problematic invasive species present in Florida is the Gambian pouched rat, which was likely originally released by a resident who had been breeding them on the island of Grassy Key in the Florida Keys. These rats, the largest in the world, can grow up to 35 inches long and weigh up to nine pounds. They lack natural predators to limit their population and could therefore potentially alter the local ecosystem.
There have been extensive efforts made since 2007 to eliminate the pouched rats, but officials still have a ways to go. The rats reproduce quickly; females can have five litters in only nine months with an average of four young per litter. There have been a handful of sightings on other islands in the Florida Keys suggesting that the rats could be expanding their territory, further threatening area ecosystems and native plant and animal life.