Moving Firewood Long Distances Can Spread Invasive Insects

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[November 16, 2016]    CHAMPAIGN -  What’s in your firewood? Tree-killing insects or diseases may be hiding in or on firewood that may be transported hundreds of miles to campsites or fireplaces.

The spread of invasive pests often has serious economic consequences, according to Kelly Estes, coordinator of the Cooperative Agricultural Pest Survey (CAPS), at the Illinois Natural History Survey, Prairie Research Institute.

In a 2011 study published in the PLOS ONE scientific journal, researchers projected that wood-boring insects are anticipated to cause nearly $1.7 billion in local government expenditures in the U.S. and $830 million in lost residential property values over a ten-year time span.

Hunters and campers bringing firewood long distances from home to wooded areas or homeowners stacking untreated wood in their yards could be spreading invasive insects.


“The problem is that insects are hidden in firewood, and you may be moving these pests to new areas without knowing it,” Estes said. “This can lead to the potential destruction and death of trees in natural and urban areas, a decline in the diversity and quality of natural forests, and even a decline in property values.”

One noteworthy invasive pest associated with the movement of firewood is the emerald ash borer (EAB). The Illinois Department of Agriculture (IDOA) has lifted restrictions on the movement of firewood and other materials from ash trees, partly because the EAB is now so prevalent in the state. However, it is still illegal to move these materials across state lines.

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Although IDOA no longer regulates hardwood firewood, invasive pests such as the European Gypsy Moth, an oak defoliator, and Thousand Cankers Disease of walnuts, transmitted by the Walnut Twig Beetle, are regulated and/or under state and federal quarantines. Check with IDOA if you have any questions about the movement of plant or plant materials.

Estes suggests that hunters and campers gather firewood at the campsite, if permitted, or buy it in the local area. Bundled, heat-treated firewood sold at gas stations and stores has been heated to a temperature that kills insect invaders. Look for the USDA APHIS treatment seal that indicates the bundle has been properly treated.

[Lisa Sheppard]


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