Many Indiana residents rely on firewood to heat their homes during the winter months, but moving firewood creates undue risk for infestation by invasive species, according to Purdue Extension exotic insects specialist Jodie Ellis.
"Moving firewood can increase the risk of new invasive pest infestations that kill trees," Ellis said. "To help slow the spread of these insects, firewood should be purchased and burned locally, preferably within the same county."
One of the more dangerous and prominent invasive insect pests that can travel in firewood is the emerald ash borer. On its own, the insect will spread only about half a mile annually. But with the help of humans moving ash firewood, nursery stock and logs, it now has killed millions of ash trees in 15 states.
It's not only insect pests that can travel to new locations in firewood; plant diseases also can spread that way.
"Transporting firewood can create new invasive insect and disease infestations that can be found in firewood any time of the year," Ellis said. "Past invasive infestations have devastated native trees and have cost cities and towns millions of dollars in tree removal and replacement."
Ellis offered tips for using firewood safely:
* Buy and burn firewood locally from a nearby firewood dealer in the same county or no more than a few miles from where it will be burned.
* Don't buy firewood from a remote location just because it looks clean and healthy. The wood still could carry invasive disease or insect pests.
* Even seasoned firewood is not safe to move. If firewood must be moved, commercially kiln-dried wood may be a good option.
* For firewood already purchased from far away, burn the wood quickly and completely. Rake the storage area carefully and burn the debris.
* Inform friends and family about the dangers of moving firewood.
More information about preventing invasive pests from destroying forests is available at http://www.dontmovefirewood.org.