In the weeds | SteamboatToday.com
Dave Shively

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In the weeds

Green foliage means county weed-control time

Some Routt County residents can be hostile to the non-natives who move in to the area for good, especially ones from Canada.

To eradicate noxious and invasive species of weeds such as the non-native Canada thistle, Routt County extension agent C.J. Mucklow uses certain species of bugs that provide the best and cheapest method of eliminating the foreign greenery that no one looks forward to seeing.

“There’s a strict bug-release protocol for weed control,” Mucklow said. “This time of year is effective for the releases because they need good plant material to feed on.”

Mucklow said the county’s weed-control priorities are the pervasive species such as ‘hound’s tongue,’ a weed that can be treated only with pesticide. Mucklow points to the patches of St. John’s wort on Rabbit Ears pass and the musk thistle that were treated successfully with releases of insects such as seed-eating weevils. The difficulty with these treatments is the bugs’ inability to survive the winter.

“We’ve been doing these releases for a decade. We’ll bring them in and hope they reproduce,” Mucklow said about the various bug loads that are supplied to the county free of charge from the state agricultural department insectary in Palisade.

Routt County Road and Bridge Department Director Paul Draper said because of a recent state law requiring state agencies to protect state-owned lands from the threat of invasive weeds, the county’s weed-control program is now the responsibility of the Road and Bridge Department.

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This means a shift from species-based weed management to controlling weeds on the 60-foot ‘right-of-way’ land easements along county roads — often home to the widespread Canada thistle that roots out native plants.

“(Canada) thistle is the first weed ever identified in Routt County. It’s invasive, and we’ve gotten involved with controlling it since the 1930s,” Mucklow said.

Routt County technician Ken Shackelton began bio-weed control efforts Monday, releasing 100 stem gallflies in Yampa River State Park. The flies’ larvae curb the plants’ vigor.