Firewood as a vector of forest pest dispersal in North America: What do we know, and what do we need to know?

Guest blog by David Coyle, Assistant Professor in the Department of Forestry and Environmental Conservation, Clemson University

There are some astonishingly impactful invasive tree-killing pests present in North American forests. Some of these, like the emerald ash borer, are capable of potentially wiping out entire tree genera- as the damage they create reliably kills members of all the species of Fraxinus (ash). Likewise, the redbay ambrosia beetle (which carries laurel wilt, a nearly-always deadly vascular wilt disease) is capable of killing every species in the family Lauraceae – including avocado and sassafras trees. The Asian longhorned beetle infests trees in at least 12 different genera, including maples, willows, and poplars – some very common and important trees in both natural AND managed or urban areas. Other pests, like the European gypsy moth, are hugely damaging on the landscape (both ecologically, and financially) but are thankfully unlikely to cause the extinction of any given species of trees. Collectively, these forest pests cause billions of dollars in damage over time and countless ecological impacts, some of which we may not even know about yet. While all forest pests can spread by their own means across short distances, unfortunately, accidental transport by humans is one of the main ways they move more rapidly, and across larger distances.

And since you’re reading this blog on a firewood website, I’m going to assume you enjoy a good fire. Maybe it’s in your home, for pleasure or heat, maybe it’s in the fire pit outside, maybe it’s at deer camp or at a state park whatever – these fires need wood to burn. Unfortunately, many of the destructive forest pests currently found in North America can (and do) get moved in or on pieces of firewood. Some of them can survive at least 3 years deep in the wood- and some can even infest wood at any time, regardless of how old or seasoned it may be (see the guest blog on Dodds et al 2017, here). To that end, there has been a good bit of research on firewood pests, starting most intensely in the early 2000s when the emerald ash borer was rapidly spreading in North America. Since then, a variety of research on the topic has been completed and published, but no one has really holistically reviewed what is out there, what we know, and what we need to know – until now. This paper, Firewood Transport as a Vector of Forest Pest Dispersal in North America: A Scoping Review, in the Journal of Economic Entomology, led by Angelica Solano, a M.S. student with Drs. Shari Rodriguez and David Coyle of Clemson University, does just that. They reviewed the firewood pest literature from North America to see what we did- and didn’t- know, and found some very eye-opening things.

Did you know that most of the work on pests in firewood has been done in the Great Lakes and Northeastern U.S. regions? Additionally, a handful of studies have been done in the southwestern U.S. and in Canada, but almost none in the Pacific Northwest or Southeast. This is significant because there are plenty of wood-infesting pests in these areas too, and we have very little published science on what’s happening there. Yes, even folks in the South use firewood for heating their homes (it does get cold in higher elevation areas, and in winter) and “ambience” fires are pretty common too – not to mention all the campfires that happen at all the state and national parks for your s’mores, hot dogs, and general enjoyment.

Map of firewood studies research locations

Solano et al 2021, Fig 2. Location and frequency of research locations from the 24 articles used in the review.

The scientific community also doesn’t have a lot of established knowledge on how pest dispersal is affected by the movement of firewood. We know many pests can be moved, or can survive in cut wood, but how does human-mediated movement really affect pest movement at a population level? Likewise, we don’t know nearly enough about what the public knows (or doesn’t know) regarding this issue – which makes it very difficult to craft effective strategies to reach the right people with the right information. . In order to more effectively educate firewood users and make a difference in the spread of forest pests, we need to know how and what people are doing- and why they are doing it. And, unfortunately, there’s a big knowledge gap here.

At the end of the day, we know pests can be moved in firewood. Certainly, which pests we’re talking about will differ based on the location, the type of wood, how it was stored or harvested, and many other factors- but regardless of where you are, this is a possibility. We also know that people’s attitudes and knowledge can impact their decisions to move firewood long distances, and that there are inconsistent rules and regulations across states, regions, and countries. What would really be beneficial is continent-wide consistently held and enforced regulations regarding the movement of firewood, and a more informed public. Everyone knows it is better to lead with a carrot than to rule with a stick, so a focus on educating the public is, to me, the top priority.

So, if you’re reading this, please – enjoy that fire. Eat those hot dogs and marshmallows. But get your firewood locally.

This blog is summary by one of the authors of the study listed here:  Angelica Solano, Shari L Rodriguez, Leigh Greenwood, Kevin J Dodds, David R Coyle, Firewood Transport as a Vector of Forest Pest Dispersal in North America: A Scoping Review, Journal of Economic Entomology, 2021;, toaa278, https://doi.org/10.1093/jee/toaa278

 

Federal Deregulation of Emerald Ash Borer

USDA APHIS published the final rule that will remove federal domestic EAB quarantine regulations on December 15th 2020, with the rule to take effect January 14 2021 (read the press release here). This action will generate two key changes that pertain to the movement of potentially EAB infested firewood. The first change is that no directly EAB-connected federal regulation will apply to firewood- however, keep in mind the other federal, state, tribal, and private regulations and rules that apply to firewood will remain. The second change is that the federal structure that allows for the certification of heat-treated firewood in EAB infested areas (compliance agreements) will no longer apply, and therefore certification programs will need to shift to rely on state-based compliance agreements or other types of verification.

To aid in the potential development of state-based firewood regulations and heat treatment certification programs, the National Plant Board proactively developed a comprehensive set of Firewood Guidelines. These guidelines are now available online, and they contain templates, research references, recommendations, and case studies that will help inform adaptive changes over time. You can find the National Plant Board Firewood Guidelines here.

The Don’t Move Firewood campaign is run by The Nature Conservancy to reduce the rate of spread- and thus mitigate the impacts- of forest pests across North America. The campaign is based on the concept that the pathway of firewood should be addressed holistically, and the specific pests that may be in or on firewood are secondary to the idea that firewood itself can pose a threat. The Don’t Move Firewood campaign has always provided outreach materials reflecting the focus on firewood, regardless of if it is from a defined area with a federally regulated pest (such as emerald ash borer, or Asian longhorned beetle) or not (such as goldspotted oak borer, or thousand cankers disease). Due to this focus, Don’t Move Firewood outreach activities after the federal deregulation of emerald ash borer will be largely unchanged- with the exception of updating all materials describing former federal EAB quarantine boundaries. In 2021, all states and provinces on the Firewood Map found on Don’t Move Firewood website will be revised to reflect the changes in the firewood regulation environment.

For more information that pertains to this process, please visit:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

South Carolina finds an Asian longhorned beetle infestation

In late May 2020, an observant resident of Hollywood, SC noticed and reported an unusual black and white spotted beetle near a porch light at their home. That beetle unfortunately turned out to be one of many Asian longhorned beetles infesting trees in the area, and USDA APHIS is now working with the Clemson Department of Plant Industry and Clemson Extension to understand the geographic scope of the infestation, as well as how the beetle is spreading in this coastal South Carolina habitat.
asian longhorned beetle held in persons hand
There are two important things that anyone in the southeastern US can do to help. Report any possible sightings of this beetle, and don’t move any wood or tree products (firewood, chips, branches, yard waste) around the greater Charleston area.

Take a look at the trees around you, and report any insects you might find that look like this beetle- or any potential holes or other damage that might be from the Asian longhorned beetle. The beetles themselves are about 1” to 1.5” long, have a very long black and white striped antenna, and a black glossy body with obvious white spots. Sometimes they look like they have blue-ish feet. Beetles make several different types of damage on trees, including round, ¼” to 3/8” holes and small chewed “divots” on the outside of the tree. Bark may split in some places and the tree may ooze fluid around these areas. Branches will often fall from the tree, as feeding from the larvae weakens the structural integrity of the tree. So far, in this area, damage has been most commonly seen on red maples. More information on the ALB can be found on the Asian longhorned beetle Clemson Extension fact sheet. If you think you see an ALB, please capture the insect or take a photo and contact the Clemson Department of Plant Industry (invasives@clemson.edu or by calling 864-646-2140) or your local Clemson Extension office, which can be found here: https://www.clemson.edu/extension/co/index.html. If you think you have found an ALB outside of South Carolina, please visit the AsianLonghornedBeetle.com Report It form.

red maple with asian longhorned beetle damage

Firewood, yard waste, and other wood and tree products could potentially contain beetles. Don’t take firewood from your backyard along with you when you go camping, fishing, or any activity where you might use firewood. Instead, buy local bundled firewood at or near your destination, or gather firewood on site when you get there (if that is permitted). Take care to observe any local restrictions about yard waste in the area near the newly discovered Asian longhorned beetle infested area in and around Hollywood SC (southwest of Charleston).

protect south carolina forests billboards

Co-authored by David Coyle, Clemson University, and Leigh Greenwood, The Nature Conservancy

 

Don’t Move Firewood Campaign Evaluation 2020

The Nature Conservancy’s Don’t Move Firewood (DMF) educational campaign is the most widely recognized firewood outreach campaign in the USA and Canada. The Nature Conservancy conducts its own nationwide campaign of forest pest and firewood outreach while supporting hundreds of partnering entities in conducting their own efforts. To gain a better understanding of the perception and sentiment of the various methods DMF employs, two online surveys and a series of eleven one-on-one interviews were conducted with a wide variety of partners from June 2019 through March 2020.

The survey and interviews were structured to address; what current (within the past five years) campaign aspects and efforts are viewed positively by stakeholders, where do any negative feelings about the current campaign stem from, and what actions or changes are desired within two future time ranges (one to two years, and within five years).

  • The most common responses for the positive aspects of the current campaign were; the reliable website, engaging and turnkey education materials, and the clear message at the heart of the campaign.
  • The most common responses for what is “not liked” and “not useful” were; insufficient circulation of materials, inadequate awareness of existence of campaign by partners, and excessive variety of choices for outreach.
  • Most recommendations for the immediate (one or two years) were themed on; updating outreach materials with greater intention in partner distribution, updating materials to be pest- specific and include economic impact language, new media production, and better distribution of existing products to new and existing partners. Long-term project suggestions that may become part of the next five years of DMF work include; greater regional engagement in targeted areas and potentially developing an educational

The Nature Conservancy manages the DMF campaign as part of their larger goal to protect the forests of North America from the damaging effects of invasive insects and diseases. This goal would not be possible without the continued financial support of USDA APHIS and the US Forest Service to the Forest Health Program of The Nature Conservancy.

Click here to download: Don’t Move Firewood Campaign Evaluation and Report 2020.

Free Downloads for Tree Check Month 2019

August is Tree Check Month! Everyone is encouraged to take 10 minutes to check their trees for signs of the Asian longhorned beetle. To help you learn about the beetle, or to provide materials for your outreach needs, we’ve rounded up all the best free resources that we could find!

Infographics and Handouts:

Fun Outreach Items for Kids:

Template text to paste into outreach statements:

  • Report findings by calling 1-866-702-9938 or completing an online form at www.AsianLonghornedBeetle.com
  • (Your organization can help by encouraging the public to check / You can help by checking) trees for signs of the Asian longhorned beetle in August. Look for round exit holes, shallow scars in the bark, sawdust-like material on or around tree, and the beetle itself.

Blogs and News Releases:

Social Media Tips:

Educational Videos:

General Information:

Publications on firewood movement and human behavior

The issue of forest pests being moved on contaminated firewood is inherently not due to the firewood itself- but instead it is a product of people’s needs, wants, opinions, choices, beliefs, and access to relevant information. With that in mind, here at Don’t Move Firewood we thought it’d be good to summarize the papers, documentation, and research projects that have focused intentionally on the people aspect- an informal literature review of the social science of why people move firewood.

Canadian Council on Invasive Species, 2018 National Invasive Species Recreational Pathways Survey and Report, March 2018 Report, accessed May 2019 on http://canadainvasives.ca/resources/reports/, pdf version: http://canadainvasives.ca/documents/2018_07_National_Invasive_Species_Recreational_Pathways_Survey_FINAL.pdf

Daigle, J.J., C.L. Straub, J.E. Leahy, S.M. De Urioste-Stone, D.J. Ranco, and N.W. Siegert. 2018. How campers’ beliefs about forest pests affect firewood transport behavior: an application of involvement theory. Forest Science. https://doi.org/10.1093/forsci/fxy056

Diss-Torrance, A.; Peterson, K; Robinson, C. 2018 Reducing Firewood Movement by the Public: Use of Survey Data to Assess and Improve Efficacy of a Regulatory and Educational Program, 2006–2015, Forests 2018, 9(2), 90; https://doi.org/10.3390/f9020090

Jentsch, P; Bauch, C; Yemshanov, D; Anand, M; 2020 Go big or go home: A model-based assessment of general strategies to slow the spread of forest pests via infested firewood. PLoS ONE 15(9) https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0238979

Koch, F.; Yemshanov, D.; Magarey, R.; Smith, W. 2012 Dispersal of Invasive Forest Insects via Recreational Firewood: A Quantitative Analysis. J. Econ. Entomol. 105(2):438-450. https://www.fs.usda.gov/treesearch/pubs/40483

Minnesota Department of Agriculture 2005 and 2008, Public Awareness and Behavior Survey Reports. MN 2005 North Shore State Parks Visitors Report, MN 2008 North Shore State Parks Visitors Report

Peterson, K.; Diss-Torrance, A. 2014 Motivations for rule compliance in support of forest health: Replication and extension. J. Environ. Manag. 2014, 139, 135–145. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jenvman.2014.02.036,  PetersonMotivationsForComplianceReplication

Peterson, K.; Diss-Torrance, A. 2012 Motivation for compliance with environmental regulations related to forest health. J. Environ. Manag. 2012, 112, 104–119. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jenvman.2012.06.023

Peterson, K.; Nelson, E. 2008 Firewood Use in Wisconsin State Parks and Forests: 2006 and 2008 (Wisconsin) Bureau of Science Services. PetersonFirewoodWisconsin20062008

Robertson, D.; Andow, D. (Working Paper, 2009). Human-mediated dispersal of emerald ash borer: Significance of the firewood pathway.  https://pdfs.semanticscholar.org/…pdf

Runberg, D. 2011. Educating Pacific Northwest Campers on the Risk of Spreading Invasive Forest Pests through Firewood: Developing a Mental Model. Master of Public Policy Essay, Oregon State University.  PNWCamperStudy_RunbergMPP2011

Siegert, P.Y., B. Nowell, M. Michaelis, N. McShinsky and N.W. Siegert. 2015. The invasive species Cannonball Run: A case study of firewood movement to the New Hampshire Motor Speedway. P. 91–92 in Proc. of the 2014 emerald ash borer research and technology meeting, Buck, J., G. Parra, D. Lance, R. Reardon, and D. Binion (eds.). USDA Forest Health Technology Expertise Team (FHTET-2015-07), Morgantown, WV. SiegertInvasiveSppCannonballRunAbstract

Tobin, P.C.; Diss-Torrance, A.; Blackburn, L.M.; Brown, B.D. 2010 What Does “Local” Firewood Buy You? Managing the Risk of Invasive Species Introduction. J. Econ. Entomol. 2010, 103, 1569–1576. https://www.fs.usda.gov/treesearch/pubs/40590, https://www.nrs.fs.fed.us/pubs/jrnl/2010/nrs_2010_tobin_002.pdf

United States Department of Agriculture Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service 2010. Risk Assessment of the Movement of Firewood Publication of the Plant Epidemiology and Risk Analysis Laboratory, Center for Plant Health Science and Technology, Plant Protection and Quarantine, Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service Risk Assessment of the Movement of Firewood.pdf

Spring yard cleaning tips

Spring yard cleaning season is well under way, and here at Don’t Move Firewood we’d like to share some pointers on how you can best dispose of your yard waste to minimize the spread of invasive species. It is important to realize that all types of yard waste- including tree branches, brush, leaves, and clippings- can potentially harbor invasive insects and diseases. Therefore, if you dispose of yard waste (sometimes also called “green waste”) incorrectly, you could unintentionally start a new pest infestation.

For smaller yard debris from your own yard, such as leafy thin branches, evergreen needles and cones, green clippings, or brushy materials, it is best to either let it break down naturally on site (whether through backyard composting, or just a standard brush pile) or through municipal composting (if available). In some areas under quarantine for emerald ash borer or Asian longhorned beetle, there are specific wood disposal areas called “marshalling yards” for safely disposing of quarantined woody waste items. It is NOT advisable to use your leafy material for fill on other properties, and of course it is never a good idea to dump it or otherwise dispose of it illegally.

For woody materials, such as tree trunks or medium-to-larger branches from your own property, these can either be chipped on site for mulch, bucked and split into firewood for use on site, or brought to a municipal composting facility (if available).

Because pest infestations can take years to be recognized by the authorities, let alone homeowners, it is critical to remember that even trees and shrubs that appear healthy could be harboring harmful organisms. Even well seasoned firewood should be used locally- preferably on site- and not taken long distances for camping.

Many states have regulations or quarantines relating to the movement of firewood- which can include things like cut logs and branches. For a complete map of firewood regulations, visit our Firewood Regulation and Recommendation Map.

Here are some tips for what to do with fallen branches or tree trunks on your property:

  • Make it into firewood and use it in your own fireplace, wood stove, BBQ, or outdoors fire pit! Logs and cut branches should be split and dried in a covered stack for at least six months (and preferably longer) to “season” it. Properly dried “seasoned” firewood burns hotter and creates less air pollution.
  • If you don’t want to keep this firewood on site, don’t be tempted to take it with you when camping this spring or summer. Instead, you can give it to your next-door neighbor for their home heating use, or burn or chip it on site, or dispose of it at a municipal composting facility or a quarantined area marshalling yard.
  • Hire a tree service or rent a tree chipper to shred your fallen trees and branches on site into mulch to use in your own garden beds and landscaping projects.
  • If a yard waste recycling or municipal composting program is not available- and you cannot leave the materials on site to break down naturally nor do you want to make it into firewood- your brush, logs, and branches should be disposed of in a local landfill.

WEBINAR: How campers’ beliefs affect firewood transport, March 19

Join us for a FOCI webinar, How campers’ beliefs affect firewood transport, on Tuesday March 19th 2019 at 2pm Eastern (11am Pacific, Noon Mountain, 1pm Central). This webinar will share results of an on-site survey of campers in Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont and how their beliefs about forest pests affected firewood transport.  A joint presentation will be given by John Daigle, Professor in the School of Forest Resources, University of Maine, Orono, Maine; Crista Straub, Social Scientist with the Social & Economic Analysis Branch, US Geological Service, Fort Collins, Colorado; and Nate Siegert, Forest Entomologist, US Forest Service, Northeastern Area State & Private Forestry, Forest Health Protection, Durham, New Hampshire. The format of the webinar will be approximately 40 minutes of presentations, and 20 minutes of open discussion on assessing the effectiveness of outreach and education efforts and links to current research and management of invasive species.

WEBINAR: National Plant Board Firewood Working Group Overview, on February 6

Join us for a FOCI webinar, National Plant Board Firewood Working Group Overview, on Wednesday February 6th 2019 at 2pm Eastern (11am Pacific, Noon Mountain, 1pm Central). This webinar will be an overview of the firewood working group of the National Plant Board and will discuss three specific focus areas; State Regulations, Firewood Production Best Management Practices, and Outreach and Education. The overview will be led by Ann Gibbs, National Plant Board President with the Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation & Forestry, along with Piera Siegert, Vice President of the Eastern Plant Board with the New Hampshire Department of Agriculture, Markets & Food. The format of the webinar will be approximately 30 minutes of presentations, and 30 minutes of open discussion.  

 

Webinar: Don’t Move Firewood Campaign- Present and Planned, on January 29

Join us for a FOCI webinar, Don’t Move Firewood Campaign- Present and Planned, on Tuesday January 29th 2019 at 1pm Eastern (10am Pacific, 11 Mountain, Noon Central). The Don’t Move Firewood campaign organizes, creates, and assists with outreach activities over a tremendous scope of partners throughout the year. During this webinar, the manager of Don’t Move Firewood, Leigh Greenwood, will outline the activities that fall under the broad categories of; established past programs that are now in a “maintenance” mode, currently running programs that are actively being managed, and planned programs for 2019 and beyond. This webinar will have a particular focus on firewood outreach that professionals in the field of forest health management or communications can use to inform their own future actions and directions.

  • The presentation on January 29th was accidentally not properly recorded. We’ll be doing a re-presentation in February and will post it at that time.
  • The webinar’s powerpoint slides are available here: DMF2019_presentplanned