Officially opened on June 1, 2009, Martha Wellman Park provides a lighted, paved loop around a beautiful pond and a perfect place for us to study the Island Apple Snail (Pomacea insularum). Aside from easy access, the gradual slope of the bathymetry, and relatively firm substrate, the burgeoning exotic snail population made this 15-acre (6.1 ha) pond ideal for our work. We also had a great incentive to learn how to control the exotic snails there. As part of the construction of this stormwater treatment pond, a large number of native, emergent plants were placed along the entire shoreline at a cost of $565,000 – – Soft-stem Rush (142,124), Duck Potato (51,227), Arrowhead (22,673) and Pickerelweed (27,468). After one growing season, 75% of the emergent plants were gone, including all of the Arrowhead and Pickerelweed.
- Dense population of Pomacea insularum (2007)
In the fall of 2007, we began hand-collecting snail eggs and adults in Wellman Pond to save the extensive littoral planting effort funded by the FWCC from the voracious Island Apple Snail. Manually controlling the snails and eggs helped, but clearly something more efficient was needed. In the spring of 2008, we began testing various baiting and trapping methods. We had observed that the exotic snails had excellent chemoreception and could be easily attracted to certain foods. We also noted their proclivity to hide in black plastic (HDPE) flower pots, especially under any broad lip. Finally, we could see that the snail’s mobility was impeded by thin, vertical planes not touching the bottom. Putting this all together, we devised a trapping system that is highly effective on exotic apple snails.
Apple Snail Trap in Wellman Pond
With funding from Blueprint 2000 and Leon County, we deployed 30 Snail Busters’ Apple Snail Traps (patent pending) in Wellman Pond in 2008 and 2009. As we cleaned and baited the traps, we also collected any eggs and adults we observed. By the end of 2008, we had removed 4.16 tons of snails and 2,135,200 individual eggs! In 2009, the numbers dropped to 0.89 tons of snails and 1,106,400 individual eggs, in response to a much smaller population. This snail control program has stabilized the aquatic plants and the remaining plants were saved. Since these efforts were instituted there has been no subsequent loss of plants in the pond. The surviving plants are growing and reproducing. We are seeing a lot of new growth in the pond for the first time in the past two years. This is the best barometer of success. Posted by Jess Van Dyke
Wellman Pond (9/2009)