Steamboat Springs County officials are hoping residents band together this fall to fight a tiny foe next summer.
Grasshoppers feasted on lawns and gardens and fields in 2002. The Routt County Cooperative Extension Office is looking at ways to curb their appetite in 2003.
Homeowners, ranchers and farmers are invited to learn about their role in minimizing another grasshopper explosion next Wednesday at Olympian Hall.
The organizational meeting will feature presentations about pest control and the 2003 infestation outlook by Frank Pierce, Colorado State University Extension entomologist, Pat McPherren of the U.S. Department of Agriculture and C.J. Mucklow, director of the County Extension Office.
Mucklow encouraged the public to attend. The Oct. 9 meeting and subsequent meetings throughout the fall and winter will be most effective if many people get involved, he said.
"If we all work together, we might do a better job of reducing (grasshopper) numbers," he said.
A 4 p.m. meeting geared toward residential concerns is offered to rural and subdivision homeowners, followed by a 7 p.m. agricultural meeting for farmers and ranchers.
Mucklow said both meetings would allow residents to pool resources and determine the best strategy to prevent another possible infestation.
No state or federal funds are available for controlling pests, so private resources are essential in fighting the spread and scope of grasshoppers next summer.
The County Extension Office would like to identify homeowners, ranchers and farmers at the meeting who want to invest in treatments that kill grasshoppers before and after they hatch.
"The only way to really effectively control grasshoppers is to cover more ground," Mucklow said.
A survey was mailed earlier to residents primarily in Hayden and west of Steamboat Springs to determine how badly grasshoppers damaged their landscaping and fields. The County Extension Office will make those results available soon.
By the time Routt County had realized the size of the grasshopper outbreak, it was too late to stop the pests, Mucklow said. He doesn't want the same thing to happen again.
Some counties with historic grasshopper outbreaks have formed pest districts to respond to the problem before it explodes.
Grasshoppers swelled this summer thanks to a warm, dry spring that protected eggs. A cold damp spring would bring the grasshopper population back to normal levels, Mucklow said.
"But the outlook is really grim," he said.