Santa Fe Aspens looking bare due to caterpillars

"Vast majority" of trees to survive

SANTA FE (KRQE) – A significant patch of defoliated Aspen trees in the Santa Fe National Forest is causing concern for the public, but forest officials say despite what it looks like, most of those trees will be just fine.

The trees can be found along the road to the ski basin.

“People started seeing these defoliated Aspen trees and started calling us saying, ‘What’s going on with the Aspens?'” said Julie Ann Overton, public affairs officer with the Santa Fe National Forest. “‘Are they dying?'”

The culprit behind the leafless trees is the Western Tent Caterpillar, a native bug that gets hungry this time of year. While they typically munch on tree leaves in the forest, this year they happen to be in a more prominent area.

“Although they’re stuffing themselves now, the vast majority of the trees are going to put out new shoots,” Overton said. “They’re going to refoliate, get new leaves.”

Trees that are at risk of dying from the caterpillars are ones that are older or are battling diseases.

While most of those aspen trees should have new leaves in time for fall, the colors will look a little different.

“They’re going to be a little bit drabber,” Overton said. “They’ll still be yellow but they’re going to be more bronze than that bright gold we’re used to.”

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