URBANA -- What could be more harmless than a bundle of firewood? Depending on where it came from, it could be a Trojan horse for emerald ash borers. "If we could get the word out to citizens and businesses not to take firewood out of quarantined areas, we could contain the infestation of the ash borer," said James Appleby, entomologist at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. It is currently against the law to transport firewood out of a quarantined area and offenders are saddled with hefty fines.
Appleby said that even though the pest has been in the news since it was first identified in ash trees near Detroit in 2002, there are still people who are unaware of the problem and inadvertently transport the pest to uninfested areas. "I talked with a homeowner in Michigan who had a number of dead ash trees on her property. She said that she had never heard of the ash borer and didn't know it was a problem." Appleby described an innocent scenario that may occur in which her friend or grandson from Illinois visits and she says, "I have plenty of firewood. Take as much as you want." The wood filled with ash borer larvae, gets thrown into the trunk of the car, destined for a new area. Adult beetles would emerge from the wood during May and June and infest a new neighborhood of unsuspecting ash trees.
The natural spread of an infestation is probably no more than a half mile per year. But over the years, it is the transportation of infested firewood into new locations that continues to bring new infestations. Today the insect is commonly found in the southern half of Michigan with scattered infestations in northern Michigan, an area in Canada just east of Detroit, northwestern and several other locations in Ohio, northeastern Indiana and just north of Indianapolis, and in 2006 Illinois infestations were found in Cook and Kane counties.
"Nurseries and businesses that sell trees are monitored and controlled," said Appleby. "But all i
Contact: Debra Levey Larson
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign