COLLEGE STATION, Texas: Texas A&M Forest Service urges all Texans, especially outdoor enthusiasts, to help reduce the spread of oak wilt and invasive insects by taking preventive measures and being cautious when collecting, transporting, and purchasing firewood.
As Texans travel for hunting or camping trips, they may unknowingly bring deadly, invasive pests and diseases along for the ride if they bring firewood.
“Many devastating, tree-killing pests in Texas forests live and breed inside firewood,” said Demian Gomez, Texas A&M Forest Service Regional Forest Health Coordinator. “Some wood borers, such as the invasive emerald ash borer and redbay ambrosia beetle, have already caused devastating impacts, practically wiping out entire tree species from some regions of the country.”
The emerald ash borer in North Texas has killed millions of ash trees across the eastern U.S. The Redbay ambrosia beetle spreads west from the southeast, killing Redbay and Sassafras trees. Similarly, native pathogens, such as oak wilt, have killed oak trees in Central Texas in epidemic proportions.
Since insects like the emerald ash borer do not travel extreme distances naturally, we presumed that firewood transportation originated the emerald ash borer introduction in Texas, intensifying its rapid spread in the last few years. Since its introduction to Texas, the emerald ash borer has been detected in 14 counties, making it essential that firewood users display extreme caution.
Forest pests and diseases cause severe ecological and economic impacts over time. While they can spread independently, accidental human transport is one of the main ways they move greater distances, sometimes quickly jumping state and county lines. Firewood is the standard way many of these pests are forced, regardless of how seasoned or old the firewood is. Even clean and healthy wood may still have insect eggs or fungal spores that can start new infestations.
“We can limit the spread of invasive tree pests,” said Gomez. “The best rule of thumb is to burn the firewood near where it’s bought or picked up. Moving firewood can easily introduce insects and diseases to new areas, particularly during hunting and camping seasons.”
For diseases like oak wilt, this is critical. Transporting and storing infected wood from red oaks can spread oak wilt fungal spores to previously uninfected neighborhoods and properties. Because live oaks tend to grow in large, dense groups, oak wilt spreads quickly, and one infected tree can lead to large patches of dead and dying trees.
Even after letting firewood season for one to two years, firewood users should refrain from transporting the wood as it can still spread these diseases and insects.
While firewood is an essential commodity in the fall and winter, Texans can help prevent the spread of these pests and diseases by purchasing, collecting, and burning firewood locally.
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For more information, visit www.dontmovefirewood.org/texas.