All snails are not plant pests. Snails are Gastropods and there are over 40,000 species.
There are carnivores and herbivores (vegetarians.)
Some herbivores, such as the Florida tree snails are beneficial in gardens (they eat algae, not leaves and bark.)
They are safe for your bonsai trees and may even clean your pots.
Others are bad, really bad.
“In 1966, a Miami, FL, boy smuggled three giant African snails into south Florida upon returning from a trip to Hawaii. His grandmother eventually released the snails into her garden.
Seven years later, more than 18,000 snails had been
found along with scores of eggs. The Florida State eradication program
took 10 years at a cost of $1 million.”
Source - United States Department of Agriculture/ARS
Now it's back!
Snails have something in their mouth called a radula (much like a rough tongue.)
The radula of the giant African snails allows them to devour such things as limestone, stucco, cardboard, paper and bark, in addition to leaves and stems.
Radula close-up above
This is one of the most dangerous plant pests to re-enter Florida in many years. This is what a snail looks like in action:
Giant African Snails are illegal in the United States. If you see a snail that looks like one (even if it's in a pet store!) please report it to your State Department of Agriculture.
The Cuban Brown snail is another voracious plant eater (herbivore.) It is prolific in South Florida. The eggs often travel when plants are shipped.
Their rasping mouth parts are strong enough to strip the bark and cambium layer off many plants.
They are definitely plant pests . . . nothing beneficial about them.
Even if you don't live in Florida, it's possible for these snails to show up in plants received from that area. Although plants from reputable growers are usually pest free, sometimes it's difficult to see snail eggs.
Florida is not the only place with snail problems. Be sure you know the snails in your area.
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