Veronicella cubensis (Cuban slug)
- Summary of Invasiveness
- Taxonomic Tree
- Distribution Table
- History of Introduction and Spread
- Risk of Introduction
- Habitat List
- Hosts/Species Affected
- Host Plants and Other Plants Affected
- Growth Stages
- List of Symptoms/Signs
- Biology and Ecology
- Latitude/Altitude Ranges
- Notes on Natural Enemies
- Means of Movement and Dispersal
- Pathway Causes
- Pathway Vectors
- Plant Trade
- Impact Summary
- Economic Impact
- Environmental Impact
- Social Impact
- Risk and Impact Factors
- Detection and Inspection
- Similarities to Other Species/Conditions
- Prevention and Control
- Gaps in Knowledge/Research Needs
- Links to Websites
- Principal Source
- Distribution Maps
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PicturesTop of page
IdentityTop of page
Preferred Scientific Name
- Veronicella cubensis Pfeiffer
Preferred Common Name
- Cuban slug
Other Scientific Names
- Onchidium cubense Pfeiffer
International Common Names
- English: two-striped slug
- Spanish: babosa; babosa cubana
Local Common Names
- Puerto Rico: lapa cubana
Summary of InvasivenessTop of page
V. cubensis, the Cuban slug, can potentially invade, survive and reproduce in any humid tropical and subtropical environment. This species can cause severe damage to crops and native plants; transmit pathogens (via nematodes) to humans, dogs and cats and can also displace native mollusc species. The evolution of a polyphagous feeding nature should confer a high survival and reproductive rate for V. cubensis. This species, believed to be endemic to Cuba, has spread to tropical and subtropical regions in the Caribbean and Pacific islands, Hawaii and Guam. Its interception in the USA, may be indicative of a potential invasion and survival in the warmer climate of these North American regions. In the USA, V. cubensis is included in the ‘List of Pests of Economic and Environmental Importance’.
Taxonomic TreeTop of page
- Domain: Eukaryota
- Kingdom: Metazoa
- Phylum: Mollusca
- Class: Gastropoda
- Subclass: Pulmonata
- Order: Systellommatophora
- Unknown: Veronicelloidea
- Family: Veronicellidae
- Genus: Veronicella
- Species: Veronicella cubensis
DescriptionTop of page
Species in the family Veronicellidae can be accurately distinguished from each other through dissection and observation of the genitalia (Thomé, 1989). The body colour of V.cubensis is variable. Various shades of brown with two lengthwise dorsal dark stripes occur. The lines may be solid or broken up into spots. An albino form of V. cubensis occurs. A midline thin pale white stripe is present. Body texture is either smooth or granular. V. cubensis can usually be distinguished from other species in the family Veronicellidae by its blue-gray eye tentacles and pale brown area around the eyespots. V. cubensis is a relatively large species with adults measuring between 50-70 mm with a maximum length of 120 mm (Thomé, 1993a; Robinson and Hollingsworth, 2005; Capinera et al., 2011; Molet, 2011).
DistributionTop of page
The family Veronicellidae is widely distributed in tropical regions of South America, southern Asia, Africa, Madagascar and Indian Ocean Islands (Herbert and Kilburn, 2004).
V. cubensis is endemic to Cuba, The Greater Antilles in the Caribbean Sea (Thomé, 1993b). It has been intercepted in California, USA (McDonnell et al., 2008; McDonnell et al., 2009) and is found in the Pacific Island of Rota (United States of America Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands), Guam and Hawaii. In the Caribbean region, besides Cuba, it is found in Hispaniola, Puerto Rico (Aguayo, 1966), Saint Kitts-Nevis, Dominica and Barbados. Detailed distribution of V. cubensis is described by Maceira (2003).
Distribution TableTop of page
The distribution in this summary table is based on all the information available. When several references are cited, they may give conflicting information on the status. Further details may be available for individual references in the Distribution Table Details section which can be selected by going to Generate Report.
|Continent/Country/Region||Distribution||Last Reported||Origin||First Reported||Invasive||Reference||Notes|
|USA||Present||Present based on regional distribution.|
|-California||Absent, intercepted only||2006||Introduced||2006||McDonnell et al., 2008||Santa Barbara|
|-Florida||Absent, intercepted only||Introduced||Thomé, 1993; USDA-APHIS, 2010|
|-Hawaii||Present||Introduced||1985||Invasive||Thomé, 1993; Cowie, 1997; Cowie, 1998||Oahu|
|-Louisiana||Present||Thomé, 1993; USDA-APHIS, 2010||New Orleans|
Central America and Caribbean
|Antigua and Barbuda||Present||Introduced||USDA-APHIS, 2010|
|Dominica||Present||Introduced||Robinson et al., 2009|
|Dominican Republic||Present||Introduced||Baker, 1925; Maceira-Filgueira, 2003|
|Jamaica||Present||Introduced||1925||Baker, 1925; Maceira-Filgueira, 2003|
|Puerto Rico||Present||Introduced||Aguayo, 1966|
|Saint Kitts and Nevis||Present||Introduced||USDA-APHIS, 2010|
|United States Virgin Islands||Present||Introduced||USDA-APHIS, 2010||St Croix|
|American Samoa||Present||Introduced||2004||Robinson and Hollingsworth, 2005; Badilles et al., 2010; USDA-APHIS, 2010||Tutuila; Olosega (Manu’a Islands)|
|Guam||Widespread||Introduced||1994||Gomes and Thomé, 2004; Badilles et al., 2010|
|Micronesia, Federated states of||Present||Introduced||2006||Badilles et al., 2010; USDA-APHIS, 2010||Pohnpei|
|Northern Mariana Islands||Widespread||Introduced||1996||Robinson and Hollingsworth, 2005; Badilles et al., 2010||Island of Rota|
History of Introduction and SpreadTop of page
The spread of V. cubensis has been vaguely recorded in the literature (Cowie, 1998). V. cubensis is cited as endemic to Cuba (Thomé, 1993b) and introduced to Oahu, Hawaii in 1985. By 1998 however, establishment of V. cubensis in Oahu was unknown (Cowie, 1997; 1998).
During the period 1985 to 2009, V. cubensis was intercepted at USA ports of entry 56 times. Interceptions occurred in Louisiana, southern Florida and California (McDonnell et al., 2008; McDonnell et al., 2009). V. cubensis was identified on 25 plant hosts in the genera Eryngium, Heckeria, and Limnophila on shipments sent to 13 destinations from Hawaii, Puerto Rico and Dominica (Chun et al., 2004; USDA-APHIS, 2010b).
Risk of IntroductionTop of page
Introduction of V. cubensis into new areas typically occurs via contaminated material, for example, on plant material and machinery etc. V. cubensis was intercepted at USA ports of entry 56 times from 1985 to 2009 (McDonnell et al., 2008; McDonnell et al., 2009). Due to its polyphagous feeding habits, climate would be the principal limiting factor if V. cubensis ever invaded a new geographical region (Molet, 2011). In the USA, V. cubensis is included in the List of Pests of Economic and Environmental Importance (CAPS 2013; 2014). V. cubensis poses considerable risk in the USA because it has been found in isolated populations, has been associated with many plant genera, and can carry nematodes that can infect both humans and animals (USDA-APHIS, 2010a; 2010b).
HabitatTop of page
V. cubensis displays a selective preference for humid and moist habitats; in gardens, forests, wetlands, greenhouses and near water bodies. In general, terrestrial slugs inhabit dark, humid places beneath rocks and logs on the forest floor, in leaf litter and under tree bark during daylight. V. cubensis is nocturnal, but may be found moving around during the day after rain (Molet, 2011, White-McLean and Redford, 2011). V. cubensis is found in all habitats ranging from natural systems to agricultural and suburban on the island of Rota (Robinson and Hollingsworth, 2005; Badilles et al., 2010).
Habitat ListTop of page
|Soil||Principal habitat||Harmful (pest or invasive)|
|Terrestrial – Managed||Cultivated / agricultural land||Principal habitat||Harmful (pest or invasive)|
|Protected agriculture (e.g. glasshouse production)||Principal habitat||Harmful (pest or invasive)|
|Managed forests, plantations and orchards||Principal habitat||Harmful (pest or invasive)|
|Disturbed areas||Principal habitat||Harmful (pest or invasive)|
|Urban / peri-urban areas||Principal habitat||Harmful (pest or invasive)|
|Terrestrial ‑ Natural / Semi-natural||Natural forests||Principal habitat||Harmful (pest or invasive)|
|Wetlands||Principal habitat||Harmful (pest or invasive)|
Hosts/Species AffectedTop of page
In the Pacific Basin, V. cubensis is a serious pest of agricultural crops such as papaya in Hawaii. Other crops affected by V. cubensis include banana, cabbage, cassava, citrus, coffee, eggplant, mango, noni, pepper, pumpkin, star fruit, sweet potato, taro and yam. V. cubensis is also known as a serious pest of ornamental and garden crops in Hawaii (Furutani and Arita-Tsutsumi, 1998; USDA, 2006). In Hawaii, Rota, and Guam, V. cubensis is an agricultural and horticultural pest (McDonnell et al., 2009).
Host Plants and Other Plants AffectedTop of page
|Annona muricata (soursop)||Annonaceae||Main|
|Artocarpus altilis (breadfruit)||Moraceae||Main|
|Averrhoa bilimbi (bilimbi)||Oxalidaceae||Main|
|Averrhoa carambola (carambola)||Oxalidaceae||Main|
|Brassica oleracea (cabbages, cauliflowers)||Brassicaceae||Main|
|Carica papaya (pawpaw)||Caricaceae||Main|
|Cecropia peltata (trumpet tree)||Cecropiaceae||Main|
|Cecropia schreberiana (pumpwood)||Cecropiaceae||Main|
|Colocasia esculenta (taro)||Araceae||Main|
|Crotalaria retusa (rattleweed)||Fabaceae||Main|
|Cyanthillium cinereum (little ironweed)||Asteraceae||Main|
|Ipomoea batatas (sweet potato)||Convolvulaceae||Main|
|Lantana camara (lantana)||Verbenaceae||Main|
|Mangifera indica (mango)||Anacardiaceae||Main|
|Manihot esculenta (cassava)||Euphorbiaceae||Main|
|Mentha spicata (Spear mint)||Lamiaceae||Main|
|Mikania micrantha (bitter vine)||Asteraceae||Main|
|Mimosa pellita (catclaw mimosa)||Fabaceae||Main|
|Mimosa pudica (sensitive plant)||Fabaceae||Main|
|Morinda citrifolia (Indian mulberry)||Rubiaceae||Main|
|Neomarica caerulea (walking iris)||Iridaceae||Main|
|Ocimum basilicum (basil)||Lamiaceae||Main|
|Piper aduncum (spiked pepper)||Piperaceae||Main|
|Solanum melongena (aubergine)||Solanaceae||Main|
|Tacca leontopetaloides (East Indian arrowroot)||Taccaceae||Main|
|Urena lobata (caesar weed)||Malvaceae||Main|
Growth StagesTop of page Vegetative growing stage
List of Symptoms/SignsTop of page
|Growing point / external feeding|
|Whole plant / external feeding|
|Whole plant / plant dead; dieback|
Biology and EcologyTop of page
Sequences for 66 species new to science, with a special emphasis on sampling the Ellobiidae, Onchidiidae, and Veronicellidae were obtained by Dayrat et al., (2011). Relationships within Ellobiidae, Onchidiidae, and Veronicellidae were evaluated for the first time using molecular data. The current knowledge of phylogenetic relationships among pulmonate gastropods however is still uncertain.
This species is hermaphroditic, as are the rest of the tropical terrestrial gastropods. However, it is likely that V. cubensis copulates rather than self-fertilizes (USDA-APHIS, 2010b).
V. cubensis is nocturnal and usually found near water bodies or moist soil (von Ellenrieder, 2004). In Rota, this pest is found in almost all habitats ranging from undisturbed natural habitats to agricultural areas (Robinson and Hollingsworth, 2005).
Population Size and Structure
A population density of 39.09 individuals per m2 was recorded from October to December 1997 in Cuba (Maceira-Filgueira, 2002).
Like many slugs, V. cubensis is a generalist and feeds primarily on a wide variety of vegetable and animal matter, including fruits, foliage, decaying vegetable matter, dead arthropods and earthworms, algae and fungi that grow on surfaces of plants, rocks, or wood. Herbivorous slugs generally prefer tender plant tissues, such as flowers, plant seedlings, and tender leaves or stems of mature plants. Feeding damage caused by V. cubensis reduces both the yield and quality of many crops. Occasionally, terrestrial slugs may feed on members of the same species or other species of mollusc and their eggs. V. cubensis may feed on calcareous substrate.
Twenty plants, belonging to 15 families, were reported as a food source for V. cubensis at two localities in Cuba (Maceira-Filgueira, 2002). V. cubensis showed a preference for herbaceous plants in comparison to woody plants and trees. Nephrolepidaceae and Asteraceae were the most utilized families (45.45 and 18.18%, respectively) at one site, whilst Rubiaceae (40.9%), Asteraceae (13.63%) and Iridiaceae (13.63%) were most utilized at the other (Maceira-Filgueira, 2002).
V. cubensis is usually found near water bodies or moist soil (von Ellenrieder, 2004). This suggests that high atmospheric relative humidity and soil humidity of tropical environments are required for the survival of this slug. V. cubensis shows nocturnal behavior, but can become active during the day after rainfall in which cloud cover also reduces sunlight and temperature. Conversely, during hotter, sunnier and dryer days V. cubensis will hide in more humid and cooler places (USDA-APHIS, 2010b).
A study in Hawaii found that V. cubensis was most abundant at elevations of less than 300 m and in residential areas (Joe, 2006).
ClimateTop of page
|A - Tropical/Megathermal climate||Preferred||Average temp. of coolest month > 18°C, > 1500mm precipitation annually|
|Af - Tropical rainforest climate||Preferred||> 60mm precipitation per month|
|Am - Tropical monsoon climate||Preferred||Tropical monsoon climate ( < 60mm precipitation driest month but > (100 - [total annual precipitation(mm}/25]))|
Latitude/Altitude RangesTop of page
|Latitude North (°N)||Latitude South (°S)||Altitude Lower (m)||Altitude Upper (m)|
Notes on Natural EnemiesTop of page
The invasive semi-slug Parmarion cf. martensi, was first discovered on Oahu, Hawaii, in 1996 and then on the island of Hawaii in 2004. This species, which is probably native to Southeast Asia, is reportedly displacing V. cubensis in some areas (Hollingsworth et al., 2007).
Means of Movement and DispersalTop of page
V. cubensis may disperse naturally over very short distances (to neighbouring gardens etc.).
V. cubensis may be accidentally introduced into new areas on contaminated objects such as plant material and intermodal containers. Inspections at entry ports in the USA recorded 56 instances in which V. cubensis was identified on imported plant material between 1986 and 2009.
Pathway CausesTop of page
|Nursery trade||Yes||Yes||USDA-APHIS, 2010|
Pathway VectorsTop of page
Plant TradeTop of page
|Plant parts liable to carry the pest in trade/transport||Pest stages||Borne internally||Borne externally||Visibility of pest or symptoms|
|Leaves||adults||Yes||Pest or symptoms usually visible to the naked eye|
Impact SummaryTop of page
Economic ImpactTop of page
V. cubensis is known as a serious pest of ornamental and garden crops in Hawaii (Furutani and Arita-Tsutsumi, 1998). V. cubensis serves as a potential threat to both the vegetable and floriculture industry in Hawaii valued circa at $104 million in 1997 (Hata et al., 1997). Some communities have taken drastic measures to control this pest. In the subtropical Los Tuxtlas Region in southern Veracruz, Mexico, many farmers stopped growing beans altogether in an effort to control Veronicellidae slugs (Naranjo-García et al., 2007).
Environmental ImpactTop of page
Impact on Biodiversity
V. cubensis displaces other native gastropods (USDA-APHIS, 2010a).
Social ImpactTop of page
V. cubensis acts as an important intermediate host in the life cycle of the human nematode (a round worm) Angiostrongylus cantonensis (Aguiar et al., 1981; Hollingsworth et al., 2007). A. cantonensis causes angiostrongyliasis which can lead to meningitis. V. cubensis is also a host to the nematodes A. costaricensis and A. malaysiensis (Cooperative Agricultural Pest Survey, 2010). V. cubensis indirectly transmits these nematodes to humans, livestock and cats and dogs through faeces.
V. cubensis can become abundant and serve as a public nuisance in both urban and suburban areas (Cowie et al., 2009).
Risk and Impact FactorsTop of page Invasiveness
- Invasive in its native range
- Proved invasive outside its native range
- Has a broad native range
- Abundant in its native range
- Is a habitat generalist
- Tolerant of shade
- Capable of securing and ingesting a wide range of food
- Highly mobile locally
- Has high reproductive potential
- Reproduces asexually
- Altered trophic level
- Ecosystem change/ habitat alteration
- Host damage
- Negatively impacts agriculture
- Negatively impacts forestry
- Negatively impacts human health
- Negatively impacts animal health
- Reduced native biodiversity
- Threat to/ loss of endangered species
- Threat to/ loss of native species
- Damages animal/plant products
- Negatively impacts trade/international relations
- Pest and disease transmission
- Highly likely to be transported internationally accidentally
- Highly likely to be transported internationally deliberately
- Difficult to identify/detect in the field
- Difficult/costly to control
UsesTop of page
In Cuba, V. cubensis naturally feeds on the weed species Lantana camara, in pasturelands (Maceira-Filgueira, 2002).
Detection and InspectionTop of page
A strong domestic agricultural pest detection system is an essential element in providing a continuum of checks from offshore preclearance programs, domestic port inspections, and surveys in rural and urban sites across the USA (USDA-APHIS, 2013).
The Cooperative Agricultural Pest Survey programme conducts science-based national and state surveys. These surveys represent a second line of defense against the entry of harmful plant pests and weeds. These efforts support inspections of commodities, conveyances, and passenger baggage conducted by the Department of Homeland Security, Customs and Border Protection (CBP) at sea ports, airports, and land border crossings. Detection surveys increase the chance of early detection of new pest infestations.
Similarities to Other Species/ConditionsTop of page
The structures of the genitalia are used for positive identification of species of Veronicella. Slugs belong to the genus Veronicella do not have the genital pore located between the breathing pore and the head, a notable exception among slugs. Their two genital openings are located ventrally. One opening allows access to the female portion of the genitalia and the other allows for the eversion of the male portion of the genitalia (Thomé, 1989; White-McLean and Redford, 2011).
The Florida leatherleaf, Leidyula floridana, is native to Florida and can also be distinguished from V. cubensis by the genitalia. The penis of L. floridana lacks the blade-like structure present in V. cubensis. L. floridana also possesses an accessory gland not present in V. cubensis (McDonnell et al., 2009).
‘The Terrestrial Mollusc Tool’ provides extensive information and a wide variety of images and illustrations to assist with the identification of mollusc species (White-McLean and Redford, 2011).
Prevention and ControlTop of page
Agricultural and ornamental product pathways should be thoroughly inspected and monitored for the presence of V. cubensis to prevent introduction of this invasive species into new areas (USDA-APHIS, 2010b).
Sanitation should be a constant process. Where possible, nursery stock should be shipped without soil or plant soil should be sterilized to kill any eggs (USDA-APHIS, 2010b).
Destroying slug microhabitats by clearing underbrush, eliminating organic trash piles and loose boards, and checking underneath stones are measures that suppress or eradicate slugs. All infested properties must be cleaned thoroughly to facilitate survey operations and to improve the effectiveness of control treatments.
The most cost effective approach to control V. cubensis is to create public awareness to ensure that the introduction of this species into new areas can be rapidly identified and spread of this species prevented.
Cultural Control and Sanitary Measures
Altering environmental conditions is as an effective control measure for V. cubensis (USDA-APHIS, 2010b). A combination of several cultural methods can be reliably applied which can be used in combination with other treatments.
In order to increase the efficacy of treatments, habitat modification or alteration is needed. Modification can range from extensive alteration of the landscape (removing vegetation and grading the site) to very basic alterations (keeping vegetation mowed in order to keep the snails closer to ground level for easy access to bait/treatments when treatments are applied).
Removal of trash, litter or debris must be done in such a way as to prevent the spread of an infestation. Equipment used for maintenance or roadwork should not be parked, stored or left idle in infested areas, but cleaned and returned to storage at the end of each workday. Idle equipment should be removed from the infested area, unless protected by barriers or stored inside buildings kept clear of any infestation.
Good watering techniques can also have an effect on slug populations. Avoid watering plants later in the day as this provides suitable habitat in the evening when slugs emerge from their refuge. Watering early in the morning and use of a drip irrigation system is advised.
The habitat can also be altered in a way that encourages predators such as mammals and birds. This can be done by planting hedges for shelter, shrubs with berries for food and adding a pond or bird bath for water (Weisenhorn, 2001).
In open fields, plowing the soil twice yearly will reduce small populations of slugs by exposing them to predators. Disking and cultipacking will help to reduce slug and snail populations in areas of thin topsoil or where erosion is a problem.
Collecting V. cubensis by hand is the simplest and most environmentally friendly control method available. Look for V. cubensis in areas where refuge is present (under rocks, vegetation, planks, etc.). Regular and extensive collection of V. cubensis should be carried out in tandem with other control methods. Community cooperation can help to reduce slug numbers significantly, particularly in newly infested areas.
There are a number of methods which can be used to treat the area around borders and prevent the movement and subsequent reintroduction of V. cubensis into an area. Strips of copper foil can be installed to repel slugs and prevent their access to tree foliage or planting beds for several years. Slugs will not cross the copper foil. Salt is also an effective barrier for slugs to safeguard items of risk or concern. Slugs limit their movement on bare soil. Consequently, a strip of bare earth about 1.5 m wide around cultivated areas will give some protection. This form of control is made more effective if combined with chemical means of control and regular hand collection of slugs. An effective barrier can also be obtained by heaping dry ash or other abrasives in a band one inch high and three inches wide. However, these are hard to maintain due to loss of effectiveness when damp or wet.
Metaldehyde, carbaryl, and methiocarb are used in different molluscicide formulas. The efficacy of many molluscicides however declines over time and many are prone to moulding; liquid paste and formulations are more resistant. Thirteen molluscicides containing metaldehyde, three molluscicides containing metaldehyde and carbaryl, one molluscicide containing metaldehyde and methiocarb and one molluscicide containing methiocarb were tested for their efficacy against the slug V. cubensis. All molluscicides were found to cause significant mortalities.
Hollingsworth et al. (2003) found that caffeine served as a neurotoxin to tropical terrestrial gastropods when applied to foliage or plant growing media. Both 0.5% and 2% caffeine concentrations killed the majority of V. cubensis over a 48-hour period. However, in preliminary trials, the 2% solution caused leaf yellowing on ferns, bromeliads and lettuce, but this problem may be alleviated if mixed with an appropriate agricultural polymer. In the future, this method may be approved and recognized as an environmentally acceptable toxicant for slug control for food crops.
Gaps in Knowledge/Research NeedsTop of page
Studies on the biology, ecology, biological control and economic impact of V. cubensis are urgently needed to fill the knowledge gaps in relation to management focused on ecosystem and agricultural plant and animal health, and international trade (Cowie et al., 2009).
In terms of control/eradication methods and time of application, effective pest management is dependent on our understanding of development and growth stages of the species. Knowledge of the life cycle, physiology, reproductive biology and genetics of V. cubensis is scarce. Monitoring surveys using the plot technique can yield data on immature stages, phenology, density, seasonal activity, efficacy of treatments, behavioral or biological responses to treatments, and longevity (USDA-APHIS, 2010b).
The University of California-Davis, USA have developed weather models to predict population growth of plant pests (University of California Integrated Pest Management Program http://www.ipm.ucanr.edu/WEATHER). In the absence of an early warning system, a model for the invasive pest slug V. cubensis should be developed in advance of its introduction.
ReferencesTop of page
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Principal SourceTop of page
Draft datasheet under review
ContributorsTop of page
01/07/2014 Original text by:
Alberto García-Moll, Ph.D. Entomology Consultant, Puerto Rico
Distribution MapsTop of page
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