Grasshopper season over | SteamboatToday.com
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Grasshopper season over

Susan Cunningham

The grasshoppers are gone for the summer, at least for most of Steamboat Springs.

More important, it doesn’t look like they’ll be back in throngs next summer.

In June, several periods of cool, wet weather killed many of the insects while they were young and vulnerable. There are isolated spots where infestations are raging, but for much of the county, that weather was enough to make the insects bite the dust.

“Overall, I’m rather happy,” Routt County Extension Agent C.J. Mucklow said. “Agriculturally, it truly was a burden on ranching. … Secondly, they’re a real nuisance for people.”

Fewer grasshoppers this year means fewer grasshopper eggs, and thus a lower chance for epidemic levels of grasshoppers next summer, Mucklow said.

Grasshopper populations exploded in 2002, when dry and hot weather created an ideal environment for the insects. In 2003, the infestation was widespread across the county.

The insects were so dense they constantly pelted car windshields, ate entire gardens and fields, and flew in clouds when disturbed on a lawn.

By the end of last year, there were enough grasshopper eggs to make for another long summer of eaten fields, but populations have not exploded, most likely because of the weather, Mucklow said.

“The potential was there where we could have had an even larger infestation (this summer) than we had in 2003,” Mucklow said.

Some areas in the county were hit hard by the insects this summer, Mucklow said. South of Steamboat Springs off Routt County Road 14 in the Sidney Peak, Emerald Meadows and Whitewood area, grasshopper populations were very dense. Other hot spots include just south of Milner, north of Hayden, and in North Routt, near Routt County Road 56 and the Red Creek drainage.

The county’s aerial treatments killed insects on about 13,000 acres. The spraying is done in strips, so about half that acreage was hit with a chemical.

Last year, almost triple that level — 35,000 acres — were treated.

The county had planned to treat 26,000 acres this year, but when the grasshopper adults didn’t show, they decided to treat only half of that.

Because it’s unlikely to see a lot of the grasshoppers next summer, the county is not planning to organize aerial treatments in the summer of 2005, Mucklow said.

For people who are fighting large numbers of the insects, the only option now is to use an insecticide, or to “not worry about it” and let nature take its course, Mucklow said.

— To reach Susan Bacon, call 871-4203

or e-mail sbacon@steamboatpilot.com


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