Exclusive Interview with the Emerald Ash Borer

Editors note: Don’t Move Firewood is thrilled to have scored this first-ever exclusive interview with an invasive forest pest, the emerald ash borer.

Q. Thanks for granting us this interview- I know you are really busy this time of year.

A. You’re welcome. Spring is my favorite season- I spend a lot of time on personal growth, and sometimes I get in a little traveling if I can. You know, camping trips, baseball

Q. Personal growth? Tell us more about that.

A. My life – it’s like a cycle, really – revolves around the seasons. By spring I’ve grown into a full sized larvae, ready to transition from within my ash tree into a glittering emerald adult beetle. And then I chew my way out into the warm air! It’s marvelous to be an insect in spring.

emerald ash borer mating on a leaf

(credit: Jared Spokowsky, Indiana Department of Natural Resources, Bugwood.org)

Q. I see. We’re all quite excited for spring, I suppose. It has been a really tough winter.

A. Yes, I’m looking forward to the sunshine, flitting happily from tree to tree, finding just the right ash tree to infest with my many white grub-like offspring.

Q. Around here we’ve been pretty unhappy with just that- how you’ve been infesting ash trees and killing them. You are an invasive species, and basically once an ash tree is infested with multiple larvae, it dies. Do you have anything to say in your defense here?

A. I’m just a beetle- I don’t like to reflect on my own actions. I like to eat and procreate. Besides, it was you people that brought me to North America. Your mistake, your fault, now I’m your problem.

Q. That’s harsh. I don’t even know how to respond.

A. Yeah, and you want to know what? I’d still probably be confined to one state- just Michigan! – if you people hadn’t been transporting me and my larvae all around the nation on contaminated firewood. Sure, it was almost understandable before you discovered me and my brethren had invaded… back in 2002. But c’mon- its 2015 – you people are bringing this on yourself.

Q.  That’s why there’s the Don’t Move Firewood campaign. We’re working on it.

A.   Ugh- don’t talk about those horrible people and their “Don’t Move Firewood- Buy It Where You Burn It” message. Ruining my camping trips, my RV itinerary, my big plans. I was going to finally see the boulevards of Salt Lake City! The steep streets of San Francisco! The gorgeous riverbanks of Montana! But now people are starting to buy firewood locally- and I don’t get to go on nearly so many camping trips. It sucks. I hate them.

Q. Sounds like I really touched a nerve there. Let’s change the subject… Spring Training? You a Yankees fan? Sox?

A. Funny you mention it, I’m sort of blacklisted by those guys.

Q. Oh for pete’s… don’t tell me. You’ve been eating their bats, haven’t you.

A. I mean, I can’t eat baseball bat in the hand of a player, no. I’m not a termite. But I can destroy the entire forest that the bats come from, ensuring that America’s pastime has to depend entirely on imported wood or metal bats.  By the way, here’s a hot stock tip, sucker– invest in aluminum!  Hahaha… PING! Ohhhh, I kill me.

Q. That’s just mean. I can’t imagine baseball without the crack of a wooden bat –that’s the tradition, that’s the culture. That’s like saying we’d have to import apples for pie.

A. That’s just how I roll. I don’t care what you use the wood for- baseball bats, shading the streets of your towns, traditional basket weaving, whatever floats your boat. Oh, and boats! Ha! Ash is so flexible, great for building handmade boats. You’re… never asking me back for another interview, are you.

Q. No. You’re like talking to a movie villain. This is painful.

A. My pleasure.


Many thanks to Suzanne Jacob’s Meet the Invasives” Interview Series from Invasive Species Awareness Week, February 2015 on Grist.org, which served as the creative inspiration for this piece.

Planning an epic road trip!

Dear Don’t Move Firewood-

I’m getting ready for a big roadtrip- heading to Yellowstone, the Tetons, and then down into Utah for Zion, Arches- maybe even Escalante. Can I buy all my firewood in (hometown) Idaho, and then just use it as I go?

Signed, Excited Roadtripper!

Dear Roadtripper,

Sounds like an awesome trip, and I hope you have a great time. In the big Western states of Wyoming, Montana, Idaho, and Utah, the state and federal groups generally advise using firewood from the same region as where you are burning it. For instance, when camping in Southern Utah, you should be burning firewood you got in central or southern Utah. But it isn’t advisable to be bringing firewood all the way from, say, northern Wyoming down to southern Utah. There are many forest pests- both native and non-native – that you could be accidentally transporting to a new area.

You might have noticed that some of your camping reservation slips have a warning message like this: “Some federal agencies have imposed quarantines on transporting firewood. Please check with your camping destination about firewood restrictions. Visit https://dontmovefirewood.org for more information.”

If so, the best suggestion is for you to go to our map at dontmovefirewood.org/map and check if the destination state lists regulations that might apply to your camping stay. If no regulations appear to apply, the recommendation is simple- buy firewood near where you’ll burn it, use it all before you leave your campsite, and don’t take it from park to park to park! Thanks for asking, and have an excellent roadtrip.

Related Blog: Nine National Park Firewood Policies

What about moving lumber?

Dear Don’t Move Firewood-

I understand firewood cannot be transported over 50 miles in New York state. My question is regarding lumber from trees cut on my property and sawed into 2×4’s and similar lumber on site. Is this still covered by the transportation regulations?


DIY Lumber Yard

Dear DIY Lumber Yard-

Dimensional lumber (such as 2x4s) is often, although not always, regulated in a different way than firewood. The easiest way to understand why differences exist is to think about the basic final product of dimensional lumber (should be clean, straight, strong, generally without more than a speck or two of bark) versus the final product of firewood (doesn’t really need to be clean, burns fine even if it is warped or has big holes or cracks in it, typically has large swaths of bark still attached).

Firewood therefore presents a higher risk because of both the general acceptable quality of the wood being lower, and the presence of raw edge and bark. Lumber is a lower general risk due to the need for intact strong wood, and the milling process removing the majority of the live edge and bark. These are gross generalities to illustrate why they are often regulated separately.

Now, in the case of your specific question- lumber milled in a backyard facility in the state of New York- I urge you to consult with the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYDEC). While a preliminary reading of their regulations does indicate that the rules are very different for kiln dried dimensional lumber, you don’t say that you are kiln drying. Therefore, it is extremely important to check with the NYDEC before moving your potential wood product within New York.

New York Resources: