• Ken Perrotte

Don't Move! Invasive Species, Vegetation & Viruses Spread as People Inadvertently Import Bad Stuff

I recall riding around Trebark Camo Founder Jim Crumley's beautiful mountain property in Virginia and seeing the devastation wrought by a bug, the emerald ash borer. Just about every ash tree was dead or dying. How did these destructive insects get there?

Jim Crumley cutting up a dead ash tree for firewood

Most humans like to be on the go. We travel by planes, trains, automobiles and ships to far-flung places. Travel lets us experience nature in many locales, fish multiple waters, collect souvenirs. Sometimes, we carry home viruses, undetected until they spread and launch problems in our homeland. Sometimes, we transport invasive species such as zebra mussels and other undesirable critters in our boats and then inadvertently flush them into waters where they don't belong. Sometimes, we relocate vegetation or trees from distant places and then learn, too late, that they were harboring diseases previously foreign to our area or carrying undesirable, destructive insects. Even hunters of white-tailed deer and other cervidae species in many locales now must be careful when moving their harvested animal from one place to another out of fear of spreading chronic wasting disease. Everyone has a role to play in checking the spread of unwanted species and disease.


With autumn and cooler weather in place, many people are cranking up the wood-burning stoves and fireplaces. Beware getting a load of wood from outside of your immediate area. You just might be moving in a harmful problem.


Here is some sound advice from the Virginia Department of Forestry. While this media release is focused on Virginia, the advice is good no matter where you live. Please read and heed.


CHARLOTTESVILLE, VA – As the days turn cooler and shorter, many Virginians are using firewood to keep warm and spend quality time with friends and family. While seemingly harmless, moving firewood can enable the easy movement of destructive forest and agricultural pests. When firewood is moved from one area to another, the invasive emerald ash borer, spongy moth, Asian longhorned beetle, and spotted lanternfly often “hitchhike” to destroy crops, infect more trees and sometimes even entire forests.

emerald ash borer - from USDA APHIS website

Since it’s difficult to determine if firewood is infested, the best option to keep Virginia’s forests and crops safe is to buy firewood where you plan to burn it. A general rule is to get firewood that’s at least local to the county where it’ll be used. If you heat your home with firewood, harvest it locally or purchase it from a reputable dealer in compliance with state and regional firewood regulations.



“Invasive insects and disease are a critical threat to our forests,” said Virginia State Forester Rob Farrell. “When you buy firewood near where you’ll burn it, you help protect Virginia’s forests while supporting local economies. Simple choices and a little planning can make a big difference in ensuring Virginians will have forests to enjoy for generations to come.”


Asian longhorned beetle - from USDA APHIS website

“Invasive insects and diseases can lurk both inside and on the surface of firewood, so transporting firewood can allow potentially destructive and non-native organisms to move hundreds of miles and start infestations in new places,” said Joseph Guthrie, Commissioner of the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. “When traveling from one location to another, never transport firewood to your destination unless it is heat-treated and certified.” Note: I saw packaged wood at a local Tractor Supply store that was labeled "heat treated" - I had no idea what that meant. I know now...


Going camping? Make plans to buy firewood when you get there or gather it onsite (if permitted). If you have leftover firewood, leave it behind when you go. Packaged heat-treated (not kiln-dried) firewood, which will have a seal of certification from the U.S. Department of Agriculture or a state agency is also a safe option. Certified heat-treated firewood may be moved as long as it remains sealed. Once the packaging has been opened, it will attract insects and should not be moved.


To find local firewood dealers across Virginia, visit Firewoodscout.org. For more information on invasive insects in Virginia, visit the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services website. For more information about protecting trees from tree-killing insects, visit https://www.dontmovefirewood.org/.