REAL ESTATE- GIMME SHELTER- Going camping? Keep your firewood at home

Cathryn Kloetzli
Agent, Agriculture & Natural Resources, Virginia Cooperative Extension


Q: Last year, we heard something about forest destroying bugs being transported to forest by campers bringing firewood from home. Is this still a danger? 

A: Several invasive insects have hitched rides all over the country in firewood that folks have brought from their homes to their campsites, expanding the pest's impact beyond what would be possible on their own. The biggest concern is a green beetle called the Emerald Ash Borer (EAB). The adult EAB can only fly a half-mile from the tree where it's born, yet from its original entry into the United States only six years ago, it is now in seven states, including Maryland, West Virginia, and Virginia. EABs probably arrived here on solid wood packing material carried in cargo ships or airplanes originating in its native Asia.

If the EABs were found here in contaminated firewood, your home would be safe, as they only attack living ash wood. They are not like termites.However, trees in woodlots as well as landscaped areas can be affected, and larval galleries have been found in trees or branches measuring as little as one inch in diameter. All species of North American ash appear to be susceptible.

The adult beetles nibble on ash foliage but cause little damage. However, their larvae feed on the inner bark of ash trees, disrupting the tree's ability to transport water and nutrients. Since they were discovered in 2002, EABs have killed tens of millions of ash trees, costing municipalities, property owners, nursery operators, and forest products industries tens of millions of dollars.

Quarantines have had to be enforced in infected areas to contain the EAB. Shipments of ash nursery trees and ash logs are now regulated, and transporting firewood outside of any quarantined area is illegal, but transport of infested firewood remains a problem.

In Virginia, EABs have only been discovered in Fairfax County, once in 2003 and again last year. In both cases, major attacks were launched to successfully eradicate them. So far, EABs have not been spotted anywhere else in Virginia, but it's good idea to keep this little boring beauty on your radar this Spring.

While the adult EAB is easy to recognize, the larvae form is harder to spot. That's also the life cycle stage that travels well in firewood. Hiding just beneath the bark, this flat-headed borer eats its way around the tree through the living layer creating a network of galleries that quickly cuts off the tree's lifeline and kills it. The tree is then– you guessed it– cut for firewood, and the cycle continues. 

So, what to do? Don't move firewood at all– either to or from the campsite. You can also be an advocate and hang "Don't move Firewood" posters in public areas or the corner store near you. Posters can be requested through your local Virginia Cooperative Extension office.