Bracing for another summer infestation, concerned residents and biologists packed the Routt County Commissioners' hearing room Friday for a grasshopper management workshop.
Many attendees called themselves victims of the millions of grasshoppers that have swarmed Routt County the past two summers, eating most of the vegetation in sight. Most were there to ask how to stop the pests -- quickly and for good.
Unfortunately, there is no simple answer, particularly for owners of small properties, experts said.
Stopping infestation requires prevention, intervention and suppression by synthetic and natural means on large acreages, said University of Wyoming extension entomologists Scott Schell and Alexandre Latchininsky.
This year, the Steamboat Springs area is predicted to have the highest classifiable level of grasshopper infestation, Latchininsky said. An early, dry spring and the average 28 eggs laid by each female grasshopper last year likely will combine to create a major problem.
That's not good news, considering that Routt County Extension Agent C.J. Mucklow counted 360 grasshoppers in 1 square yard last year -- almost nine times what is considered a severe infestation.
However, grasshopper infestations come in intervals of one to four years, so the count could decline next year, Schell said.
This year, Routt County will have to bring out "the heavy artillery," Latchininsky said.
On ranches, allowing cattle to graze meadows twice to reduce vegitation helps slow the insects, he said. After that, chemically treating "hot spots" greatly can prevent expansion of infestations.
Several insecticides, including Malathion, Dimilin and Carbaryl, as well as different baits are the most common grasshopper controls, Schell said. Every chemical has its pros and cons, and no chemical stands out as the best, he said. Malathion, however, is being phased out because it kills non-target insects. Schell also explained new strip-spraying methods and their effectiveness in terms of limiting cost and damage to the natural environment.
Mucklow said the Colorado State University Extension Office soon would offer one of the insecticides for order.
In regular numbers, grasshoppers play a beneficial role in the ecosystem, but infestations cause an average $400 million in crop damage annually, Latchininsky said.
"We feel the need to stop them when they interfere with our economic interests," Latchininsky said.
Workbooks and CD-ROMs containing information about grasshoppers were handed out at the workshop, and more are available for free at the CSU Extension Office in the Routt County Courthouse Annex. Call 879-0825.
The CSU Extension Office will be publishing an insert on grasshopper mitigation strategies in the May 9 edition of the Steamboat Pilot & Today and the May 12 edition of the Hayden Valley Press.
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