Boy offers solutions to grasshopper problem

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— Bags of grasshoppers that were collected in Routt County this summer are sitting in an office at Colorado State University, waiting to be identified.

But one Steamboat Springs boy already has an idea of what officials will find.

Grayson Steur, 7, has been collecting grasshoppers all summer. He has caught loads of the bugs with his bare hands, and then with the help of online resources, has identified them.

On Monday, Steur brought a cardboard box of plastic dishes, each holding one to two grasshoppers and their lunch of leaves, to show Routt County Extension Service Director C.J. Mucklow.

All summer, Mucklow said he has been trying to kill the grasshoppers. "And here's a kid that wants to know more," he said.

Once Mucklow saw Steur's collection, he said he realized that Steur had the "first really good survey that we've had."

The county has counted the grasshoppers, but has not started identifying all of the species in the area, Mucklow said.

Steur has identified eight species, and there are two more that Mucklow said Steur has heard of but has not been able to catch.

Steur showed his findings to Mucklow, giving Mucklow other facts about what each species eats and where they can be found.

"These guys actually ... they can be pests. They eat stuff like alfalfa," Steur said, pointing to a pair of two-striped grasshoppers.

"These two-stripes eat, every once in awhile, each other. Like if one gets smashed by a car, another will come along and eat it."

Steur showed Mucklow examples of the red-legged grasshopper, of which there is a rare blue-legged form that Steur had found.

Knowing that these different species are present makes the grasshopper problem even more challenging.

Mucklow said he knew the clear-winged grasshoppers cause difficulties, but thought that once they died off in July, the county's grasshopper issues would be over. He announced on July 8 that the populations had peaked.

But bandwinged grasshoppers, which Steur has found several species of, are most common during the end of July and beginning of August. That means that grasshoppers can cause damage to grass and crops throughout the entire summer.

"It makes the grasshoppers even worse than what we though we were dealing with because we have a multi-species outbreak," Mucklow said. "It makes control difficult."

It won't be enough, Mucklow said, to spray the bugs once, because even if the clearwinged grasshoppers are stopped in mid-summer, the bandwinged grasshoppers will have to be dealt with at summer's end.

"Now we need to go back out there and see what bandwinged grasshoppers there are," Mucklow said.

That will take some time, as Steur knows.

"I didn't catch them all in one day," Steur said.

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