Wednesday, September 07, 2011

Promise Illinois—don't move firewood

Published: Sep. 2, 2011
Perhaps you have heard of a little green beetle that is devastating ash trees wherever it is found, said a University of Illinois Extension horticulture educator. 
"The pest is the emerald ash borer (EAB), and it is a real threat to our urban forests," said Martha Smith. "In many communities, ash trees make up a large percentage of municipal street trees and ash trees are popular home landscape trees, due to the shade provided by quick growth.
"But now these trees are seriously threatened. The EAB has killed tens of millions of trees, destroying our forests, fishing spots, campgrounds and neighborhoods."
It was first discovered in Michigan in 2002. The beetle, originally from Asia, didn't arrive in the United States on its own. It had the help of man and transportation. It is suspected to have come in cargo through the ports of Detroit, Mich. From Detroit it moved west and eventually entered Illinois.
First found in 2006 in the far west suburbs of Chicago, it is strongly believed to have hitchhiked on infested firewood brought from Michigan.
"If left on its own — flying an annual average of only 1 to 3 miles — it should have taken about 95 years to reach Chicago from Detroit," Smith explained. "Speeding up EAB's destructive path is the artificial spread by people unknowingly transporting the beetles through infested firewood and various wood-end products."
Watching where EAB has been discovered has made predicting where it will show up very obvious — along major routes of transportation and near campgrounds.
In Illinois this was very apparent when in 2008 it was found near the crossroads of Interstates 39 and 80 in LaSalle-Peru. The following season it was found along I-55 in McLean County and in 2010 along I-57 in Iroquois and Champaign counties. All discoveries were along major transportation routes often with rest areas nearby where EAB was found on a purple sticky trap. EAB also has been found in remote locations in Missouri and Tennessee. Both findings were near campgrounds where people brought in firewood and left behind what they didn't burn.
"The most effective way to stop EAB is to not move firewood," she said. "The beetle's eggs and larvae tunnel into the trees they infest. Cutting a tree into firewood does not kill EAB developing inside of it. Adult beetles can still emerge, infesting healthy trees when they do. Often, when discovered, EAB has been there for several years and ash trees are dying.
"Humans can unknowingly transport EAB hundreds of miles in firewood. That's why it is so important to make sure your wood is from local sources and to burn it where you buy it," Smith said.
The Illinois Department of Agriculture recommends you do not carry any unused firewood with you to your next destination. Don't carry it across county or state lines. The best approach is to not move firewood from your property, and definitely don't move wood out of quarantine areas. At many parks and campgrounds, firewood is sold on site. In fact, some state parks will not even allow people to supply their own firewood. As an extra precaution, crews are regularly sent out to collect any remaining firewood and burn it.
"When purchasing any firewood, always ask about its origins," Smith said. "Ask if it is from a local source. Once cut, it is difficult to tell what kind of wood it is; therefore movement of all hardwood firewood, including ash, oak, maple and hickory, is regulated. Try not to keep firewood stored at home.
"Before the onset of spring, be sure to burn your remaining supply of firewood to eliminate the chance of spreading any larvae. Take the oath and promise not to move firewood."
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For information on EAB in Illinois, visit


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