Bagworm swarm chews up ABQ trees

ALBUQUERQUE (KRQE) – Fall came early to Kit Carson Park this year. A whole row of sycamore trees lining an edge of the park stand bare or browning, looking like they’re in rough shape. The ground is littered with dead leaves, many chewed up.

If you know what to look for, the culprit isn’t hard to spot. It’s hanging from silk threads, tree bark, fences, garbage cans, fencing and even speed limit signs in the park.

City forester Joran Viers says a pesky pest known as a bagworm is responsible. The bagworm is a kind of caterpillar that feasts on tree leaves and then uses them as part of a protective cocoon. This year, there are more bugs than usual.

“It’s a reasonably high level of infestation,” Viers said. “The bulk of the damage is occurring kind of along the river corridor.”

Places like Columbus Park near 4th and Montano have their fair share of bagworms crawling around the trees there too.

This late in the season, Viers says the city can’t do much to stop them from eating their fill of the healthy green leaves because their cocoon or “bag” is simply too strong.

“Insecticides at this point aren’t really going to penetrate through that bag very well,” Viers said. “You can certainly physically squish them.”

Viers is apologetic the city didn’t catch the pests early enough.

“We should’ve been on top of this one this year,” Viers said. “We missed it and that’s egg on our face.”

The good news is that while bagworms cause an eyesore, they’re not typically all that dangerous to the long term health of the trees.

“It makes them ugly but leaves are the most expendable part of a tree,” Viers said. “The tree will have already stored enough sugars to create new leaves next year and get off to another start.”

Viers says the city will spray the trees affected next spring but will look for neighborhood input on what kind of pesticide to use.

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