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Colorado State Publications Blog

Auto Theft Prevention Resources

Motor vehicle theft is on the rise, according to statistics from the Colorado Bureau of Investigation. There were 22,206 cases of auto theft in 2017, a 72{66eaadba41c14e7e553ffe7a4ee73fbae213b19704eda0514b3dd79e37e4c0c5} increase from 2014! Less than half of the vehicles were recovered. And vehicle break-ins are one of the most common types of property crimes in Colorado.

So what can you do to help protect your vehicle from theft or break-in? What should you do if one happens? And if you’re buying a used car, how do you make sure it’s not stolen?

The Colorado State Patrol has put together a helpful list of resources to answer these questions. The list includes links to information and tips from insurance groups, government agencies, and auto associations about how to protect yourself. Also included are links to auto prevention authorities in other states, since stolen vehicles frequently cross state lines. Resources like a VIN Decoder are also provided to help you verify if a car you wish to purchase had been stolen. You’ll also find links to neighborhood crime reports to help you find out about crime rates in your area, since one third of all vehicle thefts occur at the owner’s home.

You can also find helpful information at lockdownyourcar.org, a website sponsored by the Colorado Automobile Theft Prevention Authority (CATPA), a division of the State Patrol. See this publication to learn about what CATPA is doing to reduce vehicle thefts in Colorado. Statistics and information is also available in their annual report.

Did you know that the highest number of vehicle thefts occur between 6 and 9 a.m.? This may be because drivers often leave their cars idling and unattended on cold mornings. There are many things you can do to help reduce the risk of having your car stolen or vandalized, so check out these handy resources to help increase your awareness.

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Colorado State Publications Blog

Business Identity Theft

Identity theft doesn’t just target individuals — businesses are also vulnerable to these types of crimes. Hijackers can steal financial information from businesses in order to pose as that business to establish lines of credit or make fraudulent purchases. How can your business protect itself from identity theft and cyber crimes? Three Colorado state agencies – the Secretary of State’s Office, the Attorney General’s Office, and the Colorado Bureau of Investigation (CBI) – have teamed up to bring you several helpful resources that can increase awareness and protect your business.

The Business Identity Theft Resource Guide was developed by the three partner agencies to aid businesses in protecting themselves from identity theft as well as to offer guidance to victims. Use the resource guide to learn how to monitor financial activity, safeguard your records and financial information, and protect your customers’ personal information. You can also find more at their Protect Your Business website, and in this brochure.

The Attorney General’s Office, along with the Federal Trade Commission, has also published a separate guide, Protecting Personal Information: A Guide for Business, which provides numerous helpful tips and resources for planning and protecting businesses from identity theft and fraud. Additionally, the CBI has a helpful website about identity theft and cyber crimes, and the Attorney General’s website also offers information on how to protect your customers, along with other identity theft resources.

For more resources on identity theft, including information on what to do if your individual identity is stolen, visit our library’s online catalog.

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Colorado State Publications Blog

Transportation Network Companies

How does the State of Colorado regulate digitally-networked transportation companies like Uber and Lyft? The Colorado Legislative Council has just published a new Issue Brief that explores this topic. Here you can learn about the many differences between transportation network companies (TNCs) and traditional taxicabs, including driver requirements, safety inspections, and how the companies set their rates. For more information on rules and regulations for transportation companies, see the Colorado Public Utilities Commission website.

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Colorado State Publications Blog

Safe Holiday Shopping and Giving

This is the week when many people start their holiday shopping. ‘Tis also the season for charitable giving. Unfortunately, both of those activities can be spoiled by scammers and cybercriminals. So, before you start your holiday spending, be sure to check out the Colorado Attorney General’s Consumer Holiday GuideThis booklet offers smart tips on how to avoid charity fraud; how to stay safe while shopping online or in stores; and how to protect yourself if you’re taking out a loan for the holidays. The guide also walks you through what to do if you do fall victim to a scrooge. In the guide you can learn about:

  • Ways to avoid theft of your holiday packages
  • How to tell if special offers are just attempts to obtain your personal information
  • Understanding extended warranties, contracts, and layaway plans
  • How to keep passwords, WiFi, and mobile devices secure
  • Avoiding fraud when using QR codes
  • Checking to make sure a charity is legitimate (hint: use checkthecharity.com, a consumer site sponsored by the Colorado Secretary of State’s Office and the Colorado Attorney General)

Visit our library’s online catalog to find more consumer resources.

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Colorado State Publications Blog

Tips for Flying Drones in Colorado

Whether for fun or for business, unmanned aircraft systems (UAS), commonly known as drones, are a hot new tool that’s growing in popularity. But before you set your drone in flight, you should be aware of safety precautions, laws and regulations, and insurance information.

The Colorado Department of Transportation’s website contains a helpful webpage, Fly UAS Responsibly. Here you’ll find tips, resources and FAQs for all types of users, including recreational and commercial, as well as tips and information for airport personnel.

Drone users should have insurance. If your drone crashes into someone’s home, you are responsible, according to the Colorado Division of Insurance. Check out these five tips from the Division about how to get your drone covered.

Situations may differ depending on where you’re flying your drone. You can find helpful tips from the Colorado Department of Agriculture in their video Flying Drones in Rural Areas.

For a summary of state laws and regulations on UAS, see the Colorado Legislative Council’s Issue Briefs on Unmanned Aircraft System Regulation and Drone Use and Regulation in the Public Sector Finally, see these safety tips from the Colorado Department of Public Safety. You can also learn more about drones at Colorado State University’s Drone Center.

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Colorado State Publications Blog

Understanding Health Insurance

Open enrollment for individual insurance plans is coming up in November, and many employers also conduct open enrollment during the fall. Whichever type of plan you are enrolling in, it helps to know your options. The Colorado Department of Regulatory Agencies (DORA) has some helpful information on their website, including Key Health Insurance Definitions, newly updated for this plan year. On their site you can also review approved plans, understand Essential Health Benefits under the Affordable Care Act, learn about Medicare, research health costs, and find out whether short-term or long term plans are best for you. You can also find many helpful publications available from our library, including

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Colorado State Publications Blog

Tips for Avoiding Cyber Scams

October is National Cybersecurity Awareness Month. What can you do to avoid being a victim of cyber crime? Criminals are increasingly using the internet to target victims, either to steal their identities or scam them out of a lot of money – or both. Below are some common types of cyber fraud, and tips to avoid them. You can read more about these scams on the Colorado Attorney General’s Digital Fraud website.

  • Click bait scams. These are scams where criminals will create an intriguing post on social media with the purpose of tricking the victim into sharing personal information or even installing malware. Tip: when clicking on social media posts, if you receive a suspicious-looking popup asking you to update your video player or scan your computer for viruses, this may be a scam to install malware on your computer or device. But before you even click on the post, hover your cursor over the link to make sure it’s taking you to a safe and familiar website. Even if the post appears to be from someone you know, cyber criminals will often hack into users’ accounts – so if a link looks suspicious or unfamiliar, verify it is legitimate before clicking.
  • Internet auction and classified ad sites. These kinds of scams use legitimate websites to lure customers into false purchases or which cheat sellers out of goods without paying for them. If you’re selling items on an internet auction site, a fake “buyer” might pay for the item with phony checks or money orders. Other types of scams include fake advertisements for property rentals, where an interested renter clicks on a phony ad and is made to fill out a long “application” divulging all kinds of personal information. Also common are fake ticket scams. You send in money to buy tickets for an event, but the tickets never arrive. Tip: For sellers, don’t ship items until you make sure the payment is legitimate. For buyers, do your research on a company by checking sites such as the Better Business Bureau. Don’t give personal information such as social security numbers. And remember, if it seems too good to be true, it probably is.
  • “Money Flipping” Scams. These are essentially “get rich quick” schemes that advertise over the internet, promising that if you invest a small amount of money you can “flip” it into a larger amount. Tip: Always do your research on a company before sharing any personal or financial information. Your research might reveal complaints. Also, as with click bait scams, sometimes it might look like one of these money flipping deals is coming from someone you know – but it’s possible their account may have been hacked, so always verify first. And again, trust your instincts. If it’s too good to be true…
  • Negative Option Scams. These are scams that send you products you didn’t order and then bill you for them. Or, they trick you into thinking you are ordering something once, only to be added to an “automatic delivery” over and over – again, sending you the bill. “Free trials” that collect money up front can fall into this category. Tip: Once again, do your research to make sure you are doing business with a legitimate company. Also, read the fine print. If you give your credit card number to get a free trial, be certain that the company won’t automatically start billing you after the trial period is over, and be aware of their cancellation policies.
  • Tech Support Scams. These are common scams where you either get a phone call, an email, or a popup pretending to be from your company’s IT department, or from your device’s manufacturer or carrier (e.g., someone claiming to be from Microsoft calls and tells you your computer has a virus). They either trick you into revealing personal/financial information, or gain access to your computer and install their own viruses, spyware, and malware. Tip: Never give a stranger access to your computer or device. Keep your computer or device updated with the latest security software. Don’t click on any suspicious email attachments, and do not respond to suspicious emails – just delete them. And if you’re not sure, contact the company directly and ask them if a call or email you received is legitimate.

These are just a few of the many types of cyber scams. The Colorado Attorney General’s Digital Fraud webpage includes more details on these and other scams, as well as tips on internet browsing safety, online shopping, smart phone security, and how to reduce spam. You can also use this website to report fraud. If you’re a victim of identity theft, be sure to check out the AG’s Identity Theft Repair Kit and other resources on their website.

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Colorado State Publications Blog

Is Your House on Shaky Ground?

Ground subsidence problems are very real in Colorado. Whether from naturally occurring elements in the soil or from the effects of Colorado’s mining history, the ground in certain parts of Colorado is susceptible to settling, collapsing, expanding, heaving, or swelling, all of which can have potentially hazardous effects on structures. So how do you know if your area is affected by subsidence and swelling soils? And if it is, what should you do?
When the Ground Lets You Down, a title in the Colorado Geological Survey’s popular Rock Talk series, provides an excellent introduction to these types of hazards. The geological processes are illustrated in simple diagrams and information is provided about insurance, emergency situations, and where to go for help.
Another helpful publication, produced especially for homeowners, is A Guide to Swelling Soils for Colorado Homebuyers and Homeowners. This helpful guidebook can be checked out from our library or through Prospector. 
Additional helpful resources available from our library include:

Also, search the term “geologic hazards” in our library’s online catalog for additional resources.

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Colorado State Publications Blog

New Resource for HOA Information

Colorado has 8,006 registered homeowners associations. Is your home – or a home you’re thinking of buying – part of an HOA?
The Colorado Department of Regulatory Agencies has just debuted a new website dedicated to consumer information on HOAs. Part of their Take 5 to Get Wise consumer websites, the new HOA Information and Resource Center provides numerous resources such as a “before you purchase” feature; FAQs and resources for HOA boards; information on state and federal laws; reports and educational publications; how to register an HOA; and a calendar of events where you can find forums, classes, and other events relating to HOAs.  You can also sign up for a newsletter that has helpful tips for homeowners in HOAs.
For more information about the HOA Information and Resource Center, view their annual report, which is available online from our library back to 2011.

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Colorado State Publications Blog

Health First Colorado Member Information

If you are one of the 1,276,946 members of Health First Colorado, the state’s Medicaid program, there are many resources available online to help you understand your benefits and services under the program. For an overview, see the Member Handbook, available in both English and Spanish. You can also view a benefits and services chart and FAQs, and visit their page for contact information and where to get help. The Health First website also includes a series of videos which cover topics such as teen depression screening; substance use disorder benefits; and how to keep your information up to date. On this page you can also subscribe to the Health First e-newsletter.

The Colorado Department of Health Care Policy and Financing (HCPF), which administers the Health First program, has a variety of other resources on their website to help you navigate the program. If you’re searching for a provider, they offer a Find a Doctor database on their website.

Colorado’s Medicaid program turns 50 years old this year. Learn more about Medicaid in Colorado, including statistical information, on HCPF’s Fifty Facts webpage. For more detailed statistics on enrollment, see the Medicaid Client Caseload by County monthly statistical summaries or view HCPF’s annual report.

Finally, you can go to HCPF’s website to download a mobile app for managing your benefits.

Health First Colorado

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Colorado State Publications Blog

Summer Ozone and Pollution

Wondering what you can do to help reduce ozone and improve our summer air? The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment and the Regional Air Quality Council have launched a new campaign that can help Coloradans take simple steps toward better summer air. In fact, that’s the name of the campaign and its new website – SimpleStepsBetterAir.org. Check out the website for tips on what you can do. For instance, while “take fewer car trips” might be fairly obvious, there are probably some things that you’re doing that you’re not even aware are affecting our summer ozone. For example, do you know which household products contain volatile organic compounds (VOCs)? Which man-made activities produce the highest levels of nitrogen oxide (NOx)? And what ground-level ozone can do to your health? In addition to learning all about summer ozone, you can also use the website to download interactive tools such as the OzoMeter for logging car trips, and sign up for real-time ozone and air pollution updates.

Want to learn even more about ozone and summer air quality? You can find many helpful resources in our library, including

Items listed above without URLs can be checked out in print from our library or on Prospector. For lots more titles on ozone and air quality, search our library’s online catalog.

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Colorado State Publications Blog

Call 811 Before Digging

Gov. Hickenlooper has proclaimed April 2018 as “Dig Safely Month in Colorado.”  The Colorado Public Utilities Commission (PUC) reminds property owners and contractors to call 811 at least three days before any digging project. You can also submit a request online. Upon receiving the request, local utility companies will be dispatched to the property to mark underground utility lines. “Every nine minutes an underground utility line is damaged because someone decided to dig without first contacting 811.  Striking a single utility line can cause injury, repair costs, fines and inconvenient outages,” says the PUC.  “Installing a mailbox, building a deck, and planting a tree or garden are all examples of digging projects that should only begin after contacting 811.”  The service is free.  Go to colorado811.org/  or view the Colorado 811 procedures guide for more information.

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Colorado State Publications Blog

Beware of Callers Using False Caller ID Information

Are you frustrated with the number of unwanted phone calls you receive?  The No Call List has been in place for nearly two decades now, but telephone scammers have come up with a new way around it — they alter how their phone number shows up on caller IDs.  New technologies enable scammers, telemarketers, and other unwanted callers target people by using a fake phone number — often one that starts with the same three digits as the victim’s number — to make it look like a local call or somebody from their neighborhood.  By using these fake numbers as a disguise, they make it difficult for victims to report the calls.

So what can you do?  The Colorado Public Utilities Commission has just released a new Consumer Alert on this topic.  They warn that since this practice, known as “spoofing,” is often used in an attempt to steal your personal information, don’t ever give account numbers, passwords, social security numbers and other sensitive information to anyone over the phone unless you initiated the call.

If you suspect you have been a victim of such a scam, or if you just want to learn more, go to the Colorado Attorney General’s Stop Fraud Colorado website, where you can find educational information as well as how to report a complaint.  Also, for more information on Colorado’s No Call Law see the Colorado Legislative Council’s Issue Brief.

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Colorado State Publications Blog

Financial Protection for Marijuana Businesses and Investors

In 2014 the Colorado Legislature passed the Marijuana Financial Services Cooperative Act, which allows for the creation of what are referred to as “cannabis credit co-ops,” defined as “a cooperative association incorporated…for the twofold purpose of providing specified financial services to its members and creating a source of credit for them.”  According to the Act, the creation of these co-ops was necessary because, since growing, possessing, and selling marijuana is still illegal under federal law, many financial institutions are reluctant to provide financial services to marijuana businesses. With co-ops, marijuana businesses have access to legitimate financial services, thereby discouraging black-market financial dealings and reducing the need for businesses to keep large amounts of cash on premises.  Co-ops also give the state greater “ability to track and independently verify the accounting of licensed marijuana businesses’ revenues.”

Cannabis credit co-ops are overseen by the Colorado Department of Regulatory Agencies (DORA)’s Financial Services Division.  More information on the co-op program, including bylaws and how to apply for membership, can be found on the division’s website.  You can learn more about the Division of Financial Services in their annual report.

DORA also works to help consumers become educated on how the can protect their finances.  For those considering investing in the marijuana industry, this brochure from DORA explains how you can better protect your finances by understanding the risks and benefits of marijuana investing.  DORA’s Division of Securities also has a great deal of helpful information on their For Investors website, including tips on spotting and avoiding fraud, how to file a complaint, and much more.

To read more about the state’s regulation and oversight of the marijuana industry in Colorado, search our library’s online catalog.

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Colorado State Publications Blog

Christmas Tree Recycling

It’s that time of year when the holiday decorations are coming down, and the Colorado State University Extension reminds us that, if you had a live tree, it is now “bedraggled and has probably become a terrible fire hazard. It’s time to get it out of the house. Please don’t just put it out for garbage pickup.” While it depends on your county/municipality, in many cases regular garbage service will not even pick up discarded trees, especially if they are left whole.  In any case, it is better, says the Extension, to recycle them.  Their PlantTalk Colorado website includes tips on Christmas tree recycling, as well as links to Extension fact sheets on mulching and composting.  Start the new year by being as “green” as your tree used to be!

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Colorado State Publications Blog

Laws Relating to Service Animals

Many people are confused by what legally constitutes a service or assistance animal and how (or if) they need to be marked (such as a vest).  The General Assembly recently enacted a new law that clarifies these issues as well as provides some assistance for ways business owners can deal with customers who try to pass off non-service pets as service animals.  For help understanding the new law, see the Colorado Legislative Council’s Issue Brief entitled Laws Addressing Service Animals and Assistance AnimalsAdditionally, if you have questions about the new law or want to file a complaint, you can contact the Colorado Civil Rights Division.

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Colorado State Publications Blog

'Tis the Season for Parking Problems

Holiday parties and crowded shopping malls, not to mention the possibility for winter weather, can make parking your car a major headache this time of year.  The Colorado Department of Regulatory Agencies (DORA) wants you to be prepared so that your holiday festivities don’t get spoiled by having your car towed.

The Public Utilities Commission, a division of DORA, posted these tips in a recent press release:

1. Park on private property only if you have permission; otherwise park only in public lots.

Private property owners, as well as individuals or companies that have been authorized in writing to act as agent for the property owner, have a right to remove vehicles that are parked on their property without permission. This applies to businesses, apartment complexes, residences and any other private property. So before you leave your car, first do a thorough search for any signs that may indicate that the lot you chose is private.  

2: Private property restrictions can be can be enforced 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. 

That party you’re attending is just across the street from a business with a private lot. The business is closed. It’s ok to park there, right? 

Not unless you have explicit permission from the property owner.

Even if a business is closed, at night or on weekends, it can still have non-authorized vehicles removed from its parking lot. And it doesn’t matter how long the vehicle has been parked there. If you park in a private lot and run across the street just for a few minutes to complete an errand, your vehicle could be towed.

3: Be prepared – getting your car back will be expensive.

The PUC regulates the rates for non-consensual tows, but a private property tow could still end up costing you several hundred dollars once all the charges for the tow, mileage and storage are added up.

So you got towed … now what?

The PUC has adopted rules that provide some consumer protections in cases of non-consensual tows.

·  Towing carriers are required to obtain proper authorization from a property owner before a tow can be made;

·  Authorization must be filled out in full, signed by the property owner, and given to the towing carrier at the time the vehicle is to be removed from the private property;

·  If a consumer attempts to retrieve their vehicle before it is removed from private property, the towing carrier must release the vehicle if the consumer agrees to pay the “drop charge”;

·  And a towing carrier must be available within the first 24-hours of having stored a vehicle to either release the vehicle from storage immediately upon demand during normal business hours or with one hour’s notice during all other times.

DORA also reminds holiday partygoers and hosts that many homeowners’ associations (HOAs) have parking restrictions.  Spaces may be reserved for owners, or what look like spaces could be designated fire lanes.  DORA recommends homeowners in HOAs familiarize themselves with their HOA’s visitor parking regulations before the guests arrive.  Guests having their cars towed would be a sure way to spoil the party!

Finally, if you’re traveling with passengers who are elderly or disabled, you can learn about parking rules in the Colorado Department of Revenue’s brochure Persons with Disabilities Parking Privileges.

For further information on parking rules see the Colorado Driver Handbook.

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Colorado State Publications Blog

Tips for Safe Holiday Shopping

The holiday shopping season has arrived, and unfortunately, there are “grinches” out there who want to scam you.  Take a look at the Attorney General’s Consumer Holiday Guide for some great tips about secure shopping as well as information about charity fraud.

http://hdl.handle.net/11629/co:26396_law12c762016internet.pdf

Additionally, here are some tips from the Colorado Division of Banking on how to shop securely, whether online or in person:

  1. Budget for your expenses so you do not place yourself in recurring debt after the holidays.
  2. When shopping online, ensure you are using secure websites. Hackers and scammers can create duplicate websites that mimic your trusted retailer.
  3. Check the authenticity of the website by going directly to the company website for a direct link versus searching online for the retailer.
  4. You will never be asked for your PIN number online, do not enter it for any reason. PIN numbers give scammers and thieves direct access your banking information.
  5. Report any suspicious activity on your account or card immediately.
  6. Make sure the seller has a listed address or toll-free number that you can contact if you are not satisfied with your purchase.
  7. If purchasing an item online, never send cash. The safest way to make a purchase online is through credit card.

 

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Colorado State Publications Blog

Dial 511 for Road Conditions

Winter driving season has arrived!  The Colorado Department of Transportation offers several services to help you be prepared and aware of road closures and weather conditions.  Log on to cotrip.org, or simply dial 511 from anywhere in Colorado.  511 works with both cell phones and land lines.  You can also sign up for email or text alerts from CDOT, or download the CDOT mobile app.

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Colorado State Publications Blog

Protect Your Investments

Whether you are just getting started in the world of investing, or are looking to protect the investments you have, the Colorado Department of Regulatory Agencies (DORA) has established a website that provides a “wealth” of consumer information on how to manage and protect your investments.

Money: Safeguard Your Hard-Earned Assets includes many consumer tips on money management as well as how to protect yourself from fraud and scams.  The site provides a link to DORA’s Investor Education site, where you can find consumer alerts, FAQs, and helpful links.  You can also learn about DORA’s $ecure Colorado for Seniors initiative, a program designed “to help prevent financial fraud against senior citizens.”  The webpage for this program includes printable brochures, powerpoints, and a link to request a live presentation from a DORA staff member at your senior center, library, or other community facility or group.

Be sure to check out the other Ask DORA webpages as well, providing consumer education on insurance, home repair, civil rights, utilities, and licensing.

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Colorado State Publications Blog

Japanese Beetles

While gardening last weekend I discovered that my trees are being eaten by Japanese beetles; since then, I’ve spotted them in other parts of town, as well.  Biologists say that 2017 is the worst year yet in Colorado for the invasive pests, which up until a few years ago were only found east of the Mississippi.  According to the Denver Post, Japanese beetles have been munching their way up and down the Front Range from Boulder to Pueblo.  The Colorado Department of Agriculture issued a quarantine against the Japanese beetle in 2010, but the spread has continued.

Experts say that Japanese beetles, which are most active in July and August, feed on the leaves of over 300 species of plants, but their favorites are beans, linden trees, and rosebushes.  So what can you do to prevent and control Japanese beetles?  Colorado State University entomologist Whitney Cranshaw wrote a helpful fact sheet that describes identification of the beetle as well as techniques and recommended products for control.  Also see the Colorado Department of Agriculture’s Japanese Beetle Best Management Strategies and their powerpoint presentation about Japanese beetle.

Photo courtesy Wikimedia Commons