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Into the Garden: Imported firewood can bring bad pests

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Over the past few weeks, the Busses have enjoyed a cozy, glowing fire in the buck stove. Some of the firewood is from trees in our yard, some is from a reliable local supplier I know well.According to an article published in the October Journal of Economic Entomology, live insects were found in 47 percent of firewood bundles purchased from big box stores, gas stations and grocery stores in Colorado, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming.I was alerted to this problem by Sherrie Hutchinson, director of the Plant Industries Division of the West Virginia Department of Agriculture. She keeps me up on the latest issues with invasive plants and insects.According to the Entomological Society of America, untreated firewood can harbor pathogens and destructive insects such as the emerald ash borer, the Asian long-horned beetle, bark beetles and others, and transport them to areas not infested. Furthermore, the risk of moving insects in untreated firewood is high, the authors found, because insects emerged up to 558 days from the purchase date of the wood.
There are no national regulations on the commercial firewood industry that require firewood to be treated before use or sale to reduce the possibility of live insects or pathogens on or in the wood. Several state and federal agencies are attempting to reduce the risk of introducing invasive native or exotic species by restricting the distance firewood can move from its origin and by enacting outreach programs to educate the public.However, the authors of the article conclude that heat-treating firewood before it is shipped so that insects or pathogens are killed would be prudent and would not restrict firewood commerce as much as bans on firewood movement across state borders.The Journal of Economic Entomology is published by the Entomological Society of America, the largest organization serving the professional and scientific needs of entomologists and people in related disciplines in the world.Founded in 1889, ESA today has more than 6,000 members affiliated with educational institutions, health agencies, private industry and government. Members are students, researchers, teachers, extension service personnel, administrators, marketing representatives, consultants and hobbyists. Visit Sara Busse at
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