Can you believe all of these gorgeous shells were found in SouthWest Florida? Yep! I found all of these APPLE SNAILS (Pomacea insularum) at Harns Marsh Preserve in Lehigh Acres, Florida about an hour from Sanibel. For years, I’ve been wanting to go check this place out ever since I met Kathy from Colorado who showed me one of her APPLESNAILS I wrote about in my post “Finally, A Recipe For Finding A Junonia“.
I finally made it to the preserve and was thrilled to find my first one… they are huge!
Just trying to find Harns Marsh Preserve was quite an adventure since there are no road signs- I guess because it’s not a city or state park. So that started the whole journey as quite a treasure hunt in itself. Then once we found it…. On to hunt for APPLE SNAILS! Soul Sister Susan donned her hiking boots, satchel and bug spray while I armed myself with old tennis shoes, long pants and a very strong walking stick. We didn’t know what to expect to find but knew we were going to be walking near marshy water which means (in Florida) there could be lots of bugs, red ants and more importantly… alligators. Errrr… That wasn’t really a “walking stick” … I would be more inclined to call it my “harpoon” … or should I say “Shellpoon”. Ha! I am a nervous wreck being anywhere near the edge of any inland pond so I just feel a weeee bit more safe with some sort of weapon. It’s better to be safe, right?
We had to park our car at the entrance and walk about a quarter mile until we reached some trees by the water…
Empty APPLE SNAIL shells were lined up all along these trees. SS Susan turned that Sanibel Stoop right into the Snail Stoop.
These APPLE SNAILS are actually an invasive land snail that are not native to Florida and they have threatened native species. They grow and breed very quickly so maybe that’s why we saw so many empty shells laying in the tall grasses just like this….
Their were OPERCULUMS were laying right along the same path. This empty shell had it’s OPERCULUM laying right beside this one.
We got back to the car after a couple of hours and SS Susan dumped her shells out of her bag. OMG Look how many shells! LOL
So cool, right? Some of them may look like they were already cleaned but trust me… cleaning these shells was a grungy job.
I soaked mine for two days in a bucket of fresh water then emptied that nasty water to refill the bucket and shells with a round of fresh water and 1/8 bleach to soak for a couple of hours. You have to be very careful though. Susan said she had picked up some shells that looked like they had spider webs on them and while she was started cleaning them, she saw a big spider in the bucket. Yikes! I didn’t see any siders in mine so I rinsed them all, shot the aperture of the shell with the outside hose nozzle then scrubbed each one with a vegetable brush. I didn’t even have time to put mineral oil on them but I don’t think I they need it. They were naturally this glossy and colorful!
Each one has a different color pattern. So lovely.
This was the largest one and the smallest one I found for the day.
Here are a few of the OPERCULUMS I picked up…
We saw their pink egg clusters on the tree trucks and marsh reeds…
…And even laying in the grasses.
This preserve is really just a water retention area that has become a birder’s paradise since the area provides perfect conditions for so many different species of birds. The APPLE SNAIL is the favorite meal for the KITE SNAIL so you have a better chance of spotting this rarely seen bird at Harns Marsh Preserve … although we didn’t see one. But I did spot this LITTLE BLUE HERON which is the first time I’ve ever gotten to photograph this bird…
We also saw two SANDHILL CRANES!
SS Susan is a GEOCACHER so found a geocache while we were there too.
After signing her geocache booklet, she left one of her APPLE SNAILS in the box as a little trinket.
We brought home such amazing ISLAND APPLE SNAIL souvenirs to remember such a fabulous day exploring a new area, shelling, bird watching and geocaching and learning all while having so much fun spending the day with my friend Susan. Lovely!
Oh but wait… this is weird. Ironically, Clark’s business partner Joe Ginsberg was walking his dog last week in Fort Myers when our local CBS news affiliate interviewed him about these same ISLAND APPLE SNAIL EGGS. They told Joe the eggs are extremely toxic if they are eaten by pets and kids so they wanted to warn folks of what the eggs look like to keep a distance from them. I had no idea that these snails had invaded neighborhoods in Fort Myers … or that Joe was on TV. After Clark told Joe about the APPLE SHELLS I found, Joe told him about the interview. WHOA! Take a look for yourself about these toxic pink egg clusters (and to meet Joe)… CLICK HERE FOR THE LINK. And for more info on Harns Marsh Preserve CLICK HERE.