Keep the Bugs Out: Buy and Burn Local Wood

By ecoRI News staff

Tree-eating, non-native insects can be transported in firewood, with the potential to cause damage costing millions of dollars in clean-up, eradication and replanting efforts, according to the state Department of Environmental Management (DEM).

In fact, the issue of invasive species is one of the U.S. Forest Service’s top four threats. The financial impact from invasive species infestations in the United States has been estimated at $138 billion annually in total economic damages and associated control costs.

There are many species of insects and diseases that can be spread through the movement of firewood, including Asian longhorned beetles, emerald ash borers and Sirex woodwasps — none of which are currently found in Rhode Island. Emerald ash borers, first detected in North America near Detroit in 2002, has since killed more than 25 million ash trees in Michigan, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Pennsylvania, Maryland and West Virginia. More than 75 percent of emerald ash borer infestation sites with known origins resulted from firewood movement, according to DEM officials.

They say it is imperative to prevent the spread of these insects to Rhode Island, or detect them early enough so that they can be dealt with before they become a major problem.

Rhode Islanders should be aware that they can carry local infestations of gypsy moth eggs and hemlock woolly adelgid in their own firewood, and should not transport it elsewhere. When potentially infested firewood is moved, any pests that emerge can seriously threaten the trees in the new community. You cannot tell just by looking at it whether or not a log is infested. Insects and diseases can be in or underneath the bark of infested logs, as well as on it, according to DEM officials.