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The bugs are taking over

Grasshoppers munching on a third of Moffat County

Josh Nichols

The local pest management supervisor estimated about one third of the county is experiencing a grasshopper takeover.

Moffat County Pest Management Supervisor Bruce Johnson said the worst parts of the county have more than 200 grasshoppers per square yard, which equals about a million grasshoppers per acre.

“This is the worst I’ve ever seen,” Johnson said. “I’ve never seen grasshoppers like this.”

Grasshoppers hatch in the spring, but a high number of them usually die during late freezes or die from fungal diseases that infect them when the conditions are damp.

But this year’s heat and dry conditions have created a perfect environment for grasshoppers.

The problem with grasshoppers is they eat anything green, Johnson said, including fields of alfalfa, hay and grass lawns.

“They want anything that’s green,” he said. “They’re looking for food just like everything else.”

The Moffat County Pest Management Department is taking steps to try and help control the situation.

Johnson said the department has already gone through about eight 1,800-pound pallets of the chemical used to spray for the insects.

Johnson recently had to order four more pallets but said he is already down to about two.

“We’ll probably have to order more,” he said.

Each 1,800-pound pallet costs about $1 per pound, he said.

“It’s tight on the budget but the commissioners have worked well with us,” he said. “They realize this is a serious problem.”

Johnson said right now his department is treating the areas of the heaviest infestation.

Johnson said heavily infested areas in the county include areas around Deer Creek south

of Hamilton, the Coyote Basin south of Maybell and Williams Fork

Ranch.

There are also scattered patches in the Browns Park area, he said.

“We’ve got them scattered throughout the county,” he said.

Rick Stephenson, district conservationist at the Farm Service Agency, said most reports he has heard come from the east part of the county near the Routt County border.

“We’ve heard from several people coming into the office that this is the worst they have ever seen it,” Stephenson said.

He said he thinks many farmers might have made it through the grasshopper situation OK.

“People have started to harvest wheat at this point,” he said. “I think they’re safe.”

The county is treating private land if the landowners are members of the pest district.

If they’re not members they can call the pest control office at 824-9180.

“Basically we’re trying to keep them out of the crops and help people get their hay up,” he said. “We’re concentrating on the heavy infestations. We’re doing the best we can.”

Johnson said he never would have predicted a year like this.

The key to not having such heavy infestation next year is to try to kill as many off as possible before their eggs hatch, Johnson said.

“I kept telling people this winter that with these dry years we’ve been having, the Mormon Crickets would be bad,” he said.

“But we weren’t prepared for this kind of grasshopper population. It’s going to take a lot of planning this winter to be ready for next year.”


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