The North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services’ Plant Industry division is responsible for combatting all kinds of harmful pests and invasive species, from the Spotted Lanternfly to the Gypsy Moth and more.
There is one type of pest, however, that might not come to mind when you think of “dangerous invasive species,” but which has still been banned from farming in the state – snails.
That’s right, snail farming is illegal in North Carolina.
Why, you might ask? As it turns out, snails can be quite the menace when left unchecked, according to Whitney Swink, NCDA&CS Entomologist.
“Most of the species of snails that people ask to rear for the purpose of food consumption are invasive species, and they eat plants. It’s really hard, once a system like that is set up, to make sure that they stay within their centralized location and that none of the adults go loose,” she said.
That’s not just a theory – it’s a fact that is still playing out in North Carolina.
“Well before my time as entomologist, around 28 years ago, a gentleman brough brown garden snails to the Outer Banks for the purpose of raising them,” Swink said. “They got loose, and there has been a population of them that we have had to fight back every year since.”
Brown Garden Snails are the most common species that people ask to raise, Swink said, but they are not the only ones. In addition, the Giant South American Snail, White Garden Snail and Giant African Snail are all prohibited in the state.
Requests to farm snails are not particularly common, Swink said, but they do follow an odd pattern of sorts.
“What’s weird is that it usually comes in cycles. I can go sometimes eight months without hearing a word about it, and then in a two week period I’ll suddenly get a bunch of requests,” she said. “I’m not ever really certain what’s going on there. Maybe there’s a local group of snail enthusiasts that has talked about it? I’m really not sure.”
Overall, requests are still fairly rare, Swink said. Over a four year period, she estimated she has had around 20 requests to farm snails.
Plant-eating snails are just one group among the many pests that Plant Industry is charged with controlling or keeping out of the state. For more information on the various insect quarantines administered by NCDA&CS, visit https://www.ncagr.gov/plantindustry/Plant/entomology/index.htm.