Dear Don't Move Firewood,
Can I take pine cones with me when I travel?
Pine Cone Lover
Dear Pine Cone Lover,
Pine cones can carry lots of pests of pine trees, so this is a good question.
When you talk about any sort of insect-spreading risk, it is important to be realistic to the actual threat. For instance, in all likelyhood, it is fine to take a few pine cones with you from the forest to your house or cabin for the purposes of table decorating. The chance that just a few cones could spread a pest or disease- especially if they are isolated in your house- is low. However, when you are done, the cones should be disposed of in the trash- not put outside in the backyard nor composted. By throwing them away in the trash, it becomes a lot less likely that pests of pines could emerge into the surrounding natural habitat later on.
In terms of moving large numbers of pine cones, that is not a good idea. Like I said before, many types of pests of pine can be found in cones- which you could then be exposing to pines in new places. Pests like the western conifer seed bug, various species of cone maggots, and others can emerge from cones. So please, don't move large amounts of pine cones- that's not a good idea and even could be in violations of quarantines in some areas.
Thanks for asking!