SWFL hotspot for harmful and deadly invasive species

Worms, frogs, bees pose threat to people and pets
Posted at 9:28 PM, Aug 18, 2016
and last updated 2016-08-19 06:51:17-04

LEE COUNTY, Fla. -- An alarming new warning tonight about dangerous, even deadly invasive species spreading throughout Southwest Florida.

We're learning they can cause diseases like meningitis and spinal cord problems; even killing you and your pets.

If your dog or cat licks or eats a toxic snail or worm it could then deliver a deadly disease to you.  Although this information isn’t meant to scare anyone, experts feel people need to be warned about the risks.

Alarming new problems surrounding invasive creatures like the New Guinea flatworm and Channeled Applesnail.

Roy Beckford is the director of the University of Florida's Lee County Extension Office.  He says if your pets are exposed to these worms and snails, it's possible life threatening diseases, such as meningitis, can be passed on to you.

He says if your pet simply licks you after coming into contact with these species, "a dog can transmit it to you.”

Beckford goes on to say Southwest Florida is a hotspot for many harmful invasive species, which wreak havoc with the ecosystem.  “If the animal is not meant to be a part of that particular environment then it can cause problems."

One species creating major problems is the Burmese Python, which slithers throughout the Everglades of Lee, Collier and Hendry counties.

And the revolution of the Cuban Tree Frog has made it the most prolific pest in our area.

"In many cases they have completely out-competed our native tree frogs. You're not supposed to touch them. They actually are associated with certain strains of e-coli," says Beckford.

The Green Iguana isn't deadly but has also become a huge problem.  And Africanized Honey Bees are buzzing throughout Southwest Florida.

Beckford says their numbers are swarming out of control.  "A European colony of bees would send out ten soldier bees to defend their hive…and they've attacked pets. However, Africanized Honey Bees will send out a thousand bees."

On Friday the Lee County Extension Service is kicking off a 13 week ‘Master Gardner’ training course.  It’ll teach people more about invasive species in our area. Unfortunately, seats are already full.

If you see any invasive species you can report them to Florida’s Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission by emailing them a photo and information to