Beetle time!

This weekend it was unseasonably warm at my house. Sunny, gorgeous, high around 65. We recently had an arborist cut down a few trees that were leaning hazardously towards our house, so there is a lot of firewood in our yard waiting to be neatly bucked and stacked. I was playing outside when it hit me.




A large beetle flew out of a log and smacked me in the shirt, hard. Being the head of Don't Move Firewood, I knew to immediately capture this beetle and stick it in a jar so I could look at it. Sure enough, it was a native beetle that had just emerged from the wood. The coolest part was that I could actually see fresh 'sawdust' that the beetle had kicked out as it emerged from a neat little hole clearly visible between the bark and heartwood. Pretty fantastic to see that in action!


On Monday, when I sat down in my office, I was going to tell you all about this, but then I got this email, and here's what happened next…


Dear Don't Move Firewood,

I bought a cord of wood from a local guy this past fall. I put the wood on my back deck on a metal firewood rack. The other day I saw a number of bugs on the left over wood.  Someone told me they are longhorn beetles. Should I be concerned that they may end up in my deck or house? Should I move all the wood farther back on my property or just burn everything now?


Jack in Ohio


To keep a long story short, Jack and I corresponded a bit, and he ended up sending me a photo that quite clearly is not the Asian longhorned beetle.The antenna are far too short, and the stripes are very different from ALB. Also, even in Ohio, the last week of April is a pretty unlikely time for an ALB to be found outside because of their life cycle (much more likely in later May, or June or July).


A happy ending. His local firewood (thank you!) doesn't have ALB in it! Win-win.


Of course, if you want more information on the ALB in Ohio, here you go:


Preventing pest entry on plants

We’ve talked a lot here on Don’t Move Firewood about how forest pests can enter North America on or in the wood of packaging materials, such as pallets. One thing that we talk less about is that many pests also have reached our shores on imports of living plants. Examples of this problem include the hemlock woolly adelgid, winter moth, and the pathogen sudden oak death.


Until recently, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) has tried to prevent new introductions by physically inspecting plant shipments. However, finding pests is very difficult because pests can be tiny, non-symptomatic at the time of import, or just simply very well hidden inside the plant. And of course it is unrealistic to inspect anything more than a minute percentage of total imports.


Protecting our forests and other natural resources for pests demands a more effective approach.


Recognizing this need, APHIS recently created a “limbo” category, known by its lengthy acronym NAPPRA (Not Authorized Pending Pest Risk Analysis). When certain types of plants from specific countries are deemed likely to harbor a particular pest, APHIS can temporarily prohibit imports of these plants via NAPPRA while it analyzes the pest risk and adopts safeguards to ensure that imported plants will be as pest-free as possible.


Last week, APHIS took the first action under this new authority by listing 107 plant genera which are likely to transport one of 13 types of pests. For example, imports of birches, dogwoods, poplars, willows, and 70 other genera of trees and shrubs from Europe and much of Asia are prohibited because they could introduce to the U.S. the citrus longhorned beetle – a close relative of the Asian longhorned beetle (ALB). Citrus longhorned beetles are able to attack an even greater variety of trees than the ALB. Both these large beetles spend months deep inside trees as larvae and thus are very difficult to discover via inspections.


Of course, many of the pests being prevented by these new actions could, if established, travel on contaminated firewood. Here at Don’t Move Firewood we are excited that APHIS has begun applying their new NAPPRA authority to protect our forests. Exciting times!


The Asian spongy moth problem

The Asian spongy moth attacks many hardwood or deciduous trees as well as several conifers, including Douglas fir, hemlock, larch, pine, and spruce. Since the female Asian spongy moths can fly – unlike the European spongy moth already widespread in the Northeast USA– it spreads more rapidly.

Asian spongy moths are found in the Russian Far East, China, Korea, and Japan. Like all moths, they are attracted to lights – including lights at ports where ships are loaded. The females then lay their eggs on the ships.

To protect our forests, U.S. and Canadian customs agencies inspect ships coming from northern Asia; ships found with moth eggs attached to the ship or its cargo must return to the open sea and clean off the eggs. Inspecting the ships is difficult, time-consuming, dangerous – and not always a perfect process – which leaves our forests vulnerable.

The U.S., Canada, and Mexico have adopted a regional standard that makes China, Korea, and Japan responsible for ensuring that the ships travelling to North America are not carrying spongy moth eggs. They must inspect the ships, monitor moth populations in ports and nearby forests, and take other actions to reduce the likelihood of moths laying eggs on the ships. For example, moths are not attracted to lights of a certain wavelength, so using those specific types of lighting reduces the risk while allowing port operations to continue.

This program was applied to Russia in the mid-1990s. It has worked: few ships from Russia now carry spongy moth eggs.

China, Korea, and Japan are now gearing up their programs – but improvement is needed. In 2012, 31 ships with egg masses were detected by U.S. Customs and Border Protection and required to leave port until they could pass inspection.

Given how difficult it is to inspect ships, it would be easy for some egg masses to escape detection and hatch – starting another outbreak in North America. If it gets established, the Asian spongy moth could easily be transported on firewood, just like the European spongy moth. Remember – even if a pest outbreak has not been officially detected, the risk is still present.