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Firewood Can Spread Invasive Pests

Prevent the spread of invasive pests and diseases by not moving firewood

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 knowledgeable when collecting and purchasing firewood.

As Texans travel for hunting or camping trips, they may unknowingly bring deadly, invasive pests and diseases through 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. Likewise, the redbay ambrosia beetle spreads west, killing redbay and sassafras trees. Similarly, native pathogens, such as oak wilt, have killed oak trees in Central Texas in epidemic proportions.

Each of these forest pests causes severe ecological and economic impacts over time. While they can spread independently, accidental transport by humans is one of the main ways to move greater distances, sometimes quickly jumping state and county lines.

Firewood is one of the main ways many of these pests move, 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 close to 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. In addition, 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.

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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