Grasshopper planning starts now

Infestation of critters predicted to be even larger in spring of 2004

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Right now, grasshopper eggs sit dormant in snow-covered fields across Routt County. But when they emerge next spring, there are likely to be more of them than during the past two summers, agriculture officials said.

Routt County Extension Service Director C.J. Mucklow said Tuesday the county should expect a wider, more severe grasshopper infestation in 2004.

Landowners who want help from the Routt County Extension Service to organize a plan to protect their lawns and gardens from the voracious insects need to talk with the service soon, he said.

Last year, the extension service worked with seven distinct areas in the county. About five were very successful and saw 85 percent to 90 percent reductions in grasshopper populations.

Crucial to any successful program is cooperation and commitment by all of the residents, Mucklow said.

"If you truly want to control grasshoppers, regardless of property boundaries, you've got to work together and treat larger blocks of land," he said.

The two areas that were not successful were small, rural subdivisions where treatment was less uniform because not every landowner participated and because ground spray rigs had trouble getting into all areas of the subdivisions.

This fall, the extension service has made a presentation to two groups, one of which was for residents in the Strawberry Park area. For that group, the service recommended several steps to reduce grasshopper numbers in 2004.

Those steps include getting residents to agree to participate in a treatment program, and counting and mapping grasshoppers before treatment.

The treatment involves aerial and ground application of insecticides or insect growth hormones. Aerial applications cost about $2.50 an acre, while ground applications cost about $5 an acre.

With the growth hormones, it's possible to treat every other acre and use Canola oil to attract grasshoppers to the treated areas, Mucklow said, a technique that saves money.

Mucklow stressed that programs to combat grasshoppers are not required because grasshoppers do not pose a public health threat, but rather are a nuisance and can harm grazing lands. He also said all previous grasshopper infestations have eventually gone away on their own without human intervention.

Any groups interested in hearing a presentation from the extension service or getting help organizing a program to combat grasshoppers should call the Routt County Extension Office.

"If there's a group of landowners out there that wants help from us other than just general recommendations," Mucklow said, "we've got to do it now because we can't do it all June 1."

-- To reach Susan Bacon, call 871-4203

or e-mail sbacon@steamboatpilot.com

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