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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.

Destination Florida

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.

image of the Bulimulus sporadicus

Bulimulus sporadicus (d’ Orbigny, 1935) snail. Photo credit:

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.

snails climbing up citrus tree pot

Bulimulus sp. tend to climb to higher elevations. Photo Credit: Steven Crump

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.

Bulimulus sp. found on citrus leaves in Volusia County.
Photo credit: Steven Crump

Treatment Options

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.


15 Comments on “A Snail that Rode the Rails

  1. Hi Karen, I enjoyed your article on snails. I’ve yet to see them on the South Peninsula in Daytona Beach. If I do see them I’ll now know about them. Thanks for the article.

    • Thanks Dennis! They are pretty resourceful and will find a way to get to you place someday. Ha!

  2. Karen, I am the Florida manager for a chemical company that sell Deadline (a metaldehyde based product). I was recently called to a central FL citrus grove that is being overwhelmed with this pest. We observed this species of snail is actually eating the young leaves and not just the litter on the ground. The grove manager has tried several insecticide products with little success. We sell hundreds of thousands of pounds of this product to nurseries, fern growers, tropical fruit growers and homeowners. This problem is spreading across the state with reported infestations in many groves. The cost at recommended rates is only $30-$40/acre. Do you not think this could be an affordable and effective control of this pest?

    • Hi Mike! thanks for sharing! I’ve reached out to our UF State specialists and unfortunately, we cannot recommend any products until we have actually seen the research trials on the product. I agree with you that this is a nasty pest!

      • I’m working with Mike and another researcher specialist dealing with this snail. The short answer is that we don’t have an answer yet.

        • Thanks Lauren! Let us know how it turns out. Good Luck-

  3. Karen, I just wanted to let you know that I returned to the grove that was infested with these snails and the grower was overwhelmed with results. We eliminated 99% of all snails when using Deadline MP’s. I think there is an answer to our problem.
    I do have a request, would it be possible to use your picture of this snail in an email that I can share with my customer identifying the problem? If so, I will send out this week.

  4. Great article. I’ve seen several colonies of Bulimulus sporadicus in various areas of Gainesville, Florida. These colonies include one near the Cade Museum, Depot Park, a mowed area behind Lowes along 13th Street, along a ditch in northern Gainesville, along Gale Lemerand Drive on the UF campus, and an area along 8th Avenue west of Main Street. I believe that one way that this species is spreading in parts of Florida so quickly is that it crawls onto cars (and probably also mowing equipment) and is transported to new areas this way. I have observed a specimen that was attached to my wife’s car that was parked in our garage (and we have no colonies near our home) after she drove home from her office along University Avenue. Thanks for the interesting blog post.

  5. Hey there, I’m wondering if these are the same snails you are writing about. There has been quite the explosion of them this year. I’m almost always seeing them on walls and fences, have yet to spot them on any plants.
    We’re in Kissimmee, close to Poinciana.

    • Most likely, they have traveled throughout most of North and Central Florida by now. A grower here in Central Florida uses ducks to control his population in his citrus area. It looks clean as a whistle now!

  6. Hey Karen,
    Today I think I may have met a member of this specific snail species. It caught my attention as it was the 1st time I had seen a snail actively moving along with nearly its full body exposed. It was rather large and quick compared to other snails I have encountered. I took lots of pictures and videos and it caught my attention enough to look into what type it was, and a little later it led me to your blog page.
    Anyhow, it was located in downtown Pensacola, Florida, and actually just across the street is a railroad for the Port of Pensacola.

    • The little dudes just seem to get around. Good catch on identifying them. They are sure to be on the move again when our wet summers resume. Cheers! PS, Keep them in Seminole Country! Go Gators! LOL!

  7. They are all over the back side of my house. Should I leave them be or try to get rid of them.
    Polk county.

    • Tracy-
      If you have a stucco house, they will climb it and feed on it. If you eliminate water on that side of the house, it limits their range. You can brush them off with a broom or apply an over-the-counter product to reduce the populations. Scroll down for some other products that have worked well against these pests. As always, follow the label directions.

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