Giant African Snail

FACTS, IDENTIFICATION & CONTROL

LATIN NAME

Achatina fulica

APPEARANCE

According to the United States Department of Agriculture, giant African snails are a great threat to agriculture and crops. They range from 10 to 17 cm in length. They typically have cone-shaped shells that are light brown in color with darker brown vertical stripes, though occasionally the color may differ – reddish-brown with pale yellow stripes, for instance – depending on their environment.

BEHAVIOR, DIET & HABITS

The giant African snail commonly is found in warm, humid climates. They can be found in coastal areas, shrub lands, plantation habitats and forests. The snail prefers temperatures that are well above freezing. It is nocturnal and spends most of the day underground. These snails produce a slime that reduces friction and allows them to move along many ground surfaces.

Giant African snails are herbivores, meaning they only eat plants. They typically feed on leaves, wood, bark, seeds, grains and nuts. Older snails can become carnivorous, however, also feed on living plants or other snails, fungi or animal matter. Their tongue, called the radula, has teeth on it that allow it to scrape or cut food. 

REPRODUCTION

The typical life span of the giant African snail is three to five years, but they have been known to live as long as nine years. Giant African snails are hermaphrodites, meaning they have both male and female reproductive parts. Young African snails only produce sperm, but adults are able to produce both sperm and eggs. Even though they have both male and female reproductive parts, they still have to mate with another snail because their sperm cannot fertilize their own eggs.

When two snails mate, they exchange sperm. The sperm may immediately fertilize the eggs, or it can be stored inside the body for up to two years before fertilizing any eggs. Once fertilized, the snail does not lay the eggs for eight to 20 days. They typically hatch 11 to 15 days later.

The snail can lay up to 100 eggs in its first year and up to 500 in the second year. After six months, the young reach adult size.

SIGNS OF A GIANT AFRICAN SNAIL INFESTATION

These snails don’t travel far from their host plants, so if damage is visible, it is likely that the Giant African snail is nearby. To keep an eye out for these invasive pests, look for any signs of feeding. They feed on plants at night and hide in plants and soil during the day, and are large enough to be seen. If found, they can be picked up by hand, but it is highly recommended to wear gloves when doing so. 

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION

Because snails favor humidity, removing items such as mulch, dense vegetation and wood can help lessen the chance of an infestation. Some barriers also have been successful for minimizing the damage done by these snails. Copper foil, which is available for purchase at most local garden supply stores, is believed to deter them, but they become less effective over time.