Keep Firewood Close to Home!
Now that summer is in full swing, it means more BBQs, more boating, and more camping. This is the perfect time to remind people to keep an eye out for pesky hitchhikers that can catch a ride on our personal belongings and things we carry around with us. For example, by transporting firewood or other wood products from one place to another, you could be spreading destructive plant pests without even knowing it. Movement of pest-infested wood to un-infested areas has been implicated in the spread of several destructive pests, including the emerald ash borer (Utah Pests News, Winter 2014) and the velvet longhorned beetle (Utah Dept. of Ag. and Food News Bulletin).
Velvet longhorned beetle has already been found in Utah
Emerald ash borer (EAB) has not been encountered in Utah, but does pose a significant risk of introduction and establishment, especially considering that in September 2013, it was found in Boulder, Colorado. EAB specializes on ash trees, and is considered to be the most destructive
Emerald ash borer (EAB) is an invasive pest that specializes on ash trees, and is considered to be the most destructive forest insect to ever invade the U.S.
Many insects and diseases that threaten natural resources can lie dormant in wood products for long periods of time (1-2 years), and once they emerge from their protected retreats, they begin infesting trees and reproducing to ensure the survival of their species. However, we may not even realize that the pest is present until many years later, when their populations are at higher levels and/or damage is more apparent and widespread. In some cases, infested trees cannot be saved and will eventually die. When we transport wood, we may be contributing to the killing of trees – trees that provide us food (e.g., apples, cherries) or are found in some of our favorite places (e.g., national/regional parks). Trees have important social, health, environmental, and economic benefits, so it is crucial that we do what we can to prevent invasive pests from entering or spreading throughout our state.
A study conducted by Oregon State researchers found that 20 live and invasive insects were found in just 6 bundles of firewood purchased at grocery stores throughout their state. These firewood bundles originated as far away as New Zealand and Russia.
In June of 2014, we spent an afternoon visiting a few Cache County stores that sell firewood to determine whether our local stores sell out-of-state firewood. Of the 7 different firewood bundles that we examined, only one originated from Utah (Salt Lake City). The remaining bundles originated from California, Oregon, New Mexico, and Canada, and one was of unknown origin. Some of these firewood bundles were labeled as kiln-dried and pest free, but kiln-drying firewood is not considered to be as effective at killing pests as heat treating (see article, "Kiln Dried vs Heat Treated Firewood" for more information).
Firewood that has been packaged and heat treated (i.e., exposed to temperatures of at least 160°F for 75 minutes) is generally considered to be free from pests. Firewood that has been heat treated usually contains a USDA APHIS treatment seal on the package.
How Can You Help?
- Avoid transporting firewood across county lines. A good rule of thumb is to purchase firewood within 50 miles of your campsite.
- Call ahead to your camping destination for assistance in tracking down a local firewood dealer and leave unburned firewood behind. Wood that looks healthy may still be harboring tiny insect eggs or fungal spores.
- Keep an eye out for invasive bark- and wood-boring pests (see “Don’t Move Firewood’s” Gallery of Pests for a list of non-native pests that can spread via firewood or other wood products like pallets and wood chips).
- Tell your family and friends about the dangers associated with moving firewood and other wood products.
Many agencies have initiated campaigns to help raise awareness about the dangers of moving firewood. For example, the “Don’t Move Firewood” campaign, which was first launched by the Nature Conservancy in July 2008, has played a major role in slowing the spread of invasive bark- and wood-boring insects. The Nature Conservancy has partnered with dozens of state and federal agencies, including the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the U.S. Forest Service, since their initial inception. For more information about the campaigns against transporting firewood and other wood products, please follow the links below.
- Nature Conservancy: www.dontmovefirewood.org
- USDA APHIS: www.hungrypests.com
- USDA APHIS: stopthebeetle.info
-Lori Spears, USU CAPS Co-Coordinator
Knight, P. 2011. OSU uses campground firewood as invasive species education tool. Media article available by clicking here.
Oliver, M. 2014. Science Findings 158. Exploring connections between trees and human health. Portland, OR: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Pacific Northwest Research Station. Available by clicking here.