Please leave firewood at home when traveling. Even though the tree is dead, the wood may contain living insects and disease that pose great risk to our native and urban forests.
I understand why campers like to take firewood along with them. Purchasing wood at campsites is often expensive, and collecting fallen branches out of the forest is unreliable. Purchasing firewood at home and stashing it in the back of the camper guarantees s'mores and campfire songs.
On the other hand, more than 40 million ash trees have died in the United States in the last six years. A tiny beetle that bores into the wood and feeds within the tree is to blame for the deaths. The beetle, emerald ash borer, is not known to be in Kansas at this time, but just a few weeks ago it was found in Missouri, more than 300 miles from the nearest known infestation.
The beetle may have traveled to Missouri in some way other than firewood, but its occurrence at a state park, near a campground, and miles away from other known infestations seem to point the finger.
The worse news is that foresters have yet to find a way to control the beetle. The more that we help it spread, the quicker it will decimate forests.
Ash trees are native to most of Kansas and are found in bottomland forests and on stream banks. Ash also is a popular choice in urban plantings because of its ability to adapt to a wide range of environmental and soil conditions.
The emerald ash borer first arrived in the Detroit area. The insect is native to Asia and eastern Russia, and researchers suspect it was transported to the United States in wood on cargo ships or in wooden packing crates.
Emerald ash borers are very slender and very small - only one-quarter to one-half inch long at maturity. The beetles are shaped somewhat like a tiny grasshopper, but their bodies have a bronze or golden tint with metallic green wing covers. There are several less problematic insects with similar characteristics, but if you suspect emerald ash borer, you should consult a professional. Collect several specimens and contact the Kansas Department of Agriculture Plant Protection and Weed Control, or you can bring samples to the Douglas County Extension Office for identification.
There are other insects and diseases easily transported in dead wood. Pine wilt is one that is common to our area and is devastating Scotch and Austrian pine trees. There may also be pests that we have not even identified.
Transporting firewood is not worth the risk to our native forests. Please leave it at home, and tell your friends to do the same.
For questions about emerald ash borer, pine wilt or other insect and disease pests, please contact the Douglas County Extension Master Gardener Garden hot line at 843-7058 or firstname.lastname@example.org.