JOHANNESBURG, South Africa — When giant snails attack... they feast on the stucco of Florida homes and destroy suburban gardens.
Florida is dealing with an invasion of the giant African land snail, a slimy species that can grow up to 8 inches long and feasts on at least 500 different types of plants, as well as stucco and plaster walls.
The Florida Department of Agriculture has been trying to tackle an infestation in Miami-Dade County since September, and has collected more than 35,000 of the giant snails, Agence France-Presse reported.
“They leave excrement all over the sides of houses. They’re very nasty,” Denise Feiber, public information director for Florida’s Division of Plant Industry told ABC News. “These things are not the cute little snails that you see.”
The snails contain both male and female reproductive organs and can lay 1,200 eggs a year.
But while in Florida these snails are considered a revolting pest, in parts of West Africa they are eaten. Women can be seen in countries including Ghana, Nigeria and Benin, carrying pans of live giant snails on their heads.
In the United States, health authorities have warned that the snails carry a parasite that can cause meningitis in humans.
This isn't the first time the snails have tried to invade Florida: locals also fought off the mollusks in the late 1960s and early 1970s. According to reports, a boy brought them onto a plane and into the state as a pet, before they were released into his grandmother's garden and began multiplying.