A Snail that Rode the Rails
Bulimulus sporadicus (d’Orbigny, 1835)
It wasn’t long ago when riding the rails was a glamorous form of transportation. In the recent outbreak of COVID-19, many of us ponder the opportunity to hop on a train to see some of our distant surroundings. That was the situation with Bulimulus sp.. Bulimulus sporadicus (d’Orbigny, 1835), as he is properly called, is native to the West Indies. Not wanting to miss an opportunity to see the world, he and his kin folk jumped at the chance to do it. They are proficient at riding the rails today.
These snails were first reported in Florida in Duval County in 2009 by Dr. Harry G. Lee. It was later recorded and traced to be found mainly around the CSX Transportation railroad tracks. According to the CSX railroad personnel, their passage was attributed to rolling stock originated from Mexico in rail cars and human stowaways. Some have even been traced to marine ports. Since then populations have been reported in other parts of the state including Hillsborough, Nassau, Putnam, Clay, Bay, Polk, and Brevard Counties in vicinities of the CSX Transportation railroad tracks. Other southeastern states, including Texas, Alabama, Georgia, and Mississippi have reported similar snail infestations in recent years.
Bulimulus sp. are classified as a land snail that are gastropod molluscs. They have a primitive lung that allows it to breath air, known as a pulmonate. They appear light brown with a conical brown shell. At full maturity they range in size from ¾-1 inch in length.
Bulimulus sp. eventually made their way to Volusia County. A local citrus grower recently found the snails in DeLeon Springs on new citrus trees. It seems that they hitched a ride on his tractor mower and settled on his farm as the weather was moist and humid. B. sporadicus thrives in Florida’s tropical conditions.
Not one for social distancing, this snail has a compulsion to climb. According to Lyle Buss (UF/IFAS Entomology & Nematology laboratory), this traveler doesn’t seem to feed on living plant tissue, it prefers leaf litter.
To our knowledge there is no economical chemical control for use on tree crops.
In a home landscape situation, removal of mulch, ground cover, or other areas that hold moisture may provide cultural control. Metaldehyde-containing baits have long been available. However, they are quite toxic to pets and wildlife. Products with iron phosphate or boric acid are a safer alternative yet less effective. Always read the label for directions and rate prior to application.
For more information or help with diagnosis, contact your local UF/IFAS County Extension Agent.