Staff from the University of Hawaii-Hilo Daniel K. Inouye College of Pharmacy (DKICP) confirmed a collection of Parmarion martensi, an invasive slug, from the Kohala district of the Big Island. Inquiries of local residents further revealed multiple sightings in the area, indicating that this invasive pest has established in the Kohala district of the Big Island. The semi-slug has been associated with increased incidences of Angiostrongyliasis (rat-lungworm disease). The parasite, Angiostrongylus cantonensis, infects rats and snails or slugs at different times during its life cycle.
The presence of the slug was confirmed through the efforts of students at Kohala Middle School, who are participating in a citizen science effort led by teacher Cristy Athan. Athan enrolled in a professional development class offered by UHH-DKICP and the Big Island Invasive Species Committee to learn more about rat lungworm and invasive rats and slugs. Funded by the Hawaii Community Foundation’s Career Connected Learning STEM grant and designed by Kay Howe, the teacher professional development class offers standards-aligned lessons for teachers to use in their classrooms to increase awareness and safety in their school and at home, and to contribute to ongoing scientific efforts to develop a better understanding of slug/snail behavior.
Residents of Kohala are asked to be vigilant for this slug and to be extremely careful with washing garden vegetables. Slugs or snails should never be collected with bare hands – gloves or chopsticks can be used to dispose of slugs in heavily salted water. Slug baits can reduce populations around gardens and yards. More information and resources on rat lungworm can be found here.