WOOD WARNING

Don’t move firewood! There’s a good reason for this warning. Actually, four good reasons. 

For the first, take a look at Riley Park and the ash trees that are gone due to emerald ash borer. The second is the Asian longhorn beetle, which we’ve talked about before. Now here are two others reasons: Thousand cankers disease and the European Gypsy moth. So far neither of these is a major problem in Indiana, and let’s keep it that way.

Thousand cankers disease was originally from New Mexico and found in Indiana in Yellowwood State Forest in 2014, and later the walnut twig beetle was found in a trap near a sawmill in Franklin County. While this disease may affect many types of walnut trees, it is especially lethal to black walnut.

This beetle, which is no bigger than a pin head, will burrow into the branches and deposit the fungus. This fungus then forms a canker (a dead area) under the bark. Once the symptoms appear, the tree usually dies in two to three years. About 17.7 million board feet of black walnut is harvested yearly with a worth of about $21.4 million. There is no quarantine yet because it has not been found outside these two areas.

The next bad guy is the European Gypsy moth. This moth was accidentally released in the 1860s near Boston. It has spread up and down the Eastern Seaboard from Virginia to Maine and has spread into Ohio, Michigan and Wisconsin. In Indiana, it has been found in nine northern counties: Porter, LaPorte, St. Joseph, Elkhart, LaGrange, Steuben, Noble, DeKalb and Allen. These counties have been quarantined.

The caterpillars of this moth feed on the foliage of more than 500 of species of trees and shrubs but prefer oak. Among their favorite trees are apple, birches, blue spruce, beech, hawthorn, oaks, poplar, white pine and sweet gum. Ironically they seldom feed on ash trees. 

The caterpillars affect the trees by eating the leaves. When the caterpillars exist at relatively low population levels there’s not much of a problem. When the population is high, they can completely defoliate a tree.

Several successive years of this can kill the tree. On young trees a 50 percent loss of leaves for more than two years will weaken and eventually kill the tree. One single caterpillar can consume 11 square feet of vegetation during its cycle.

Which brings us back our original point: For all you campers out there, please follow the rules. You are not allowed to bring any hardwood from another state into Indiana for firewood. It is also unadvisable to transport wood from a quarantined area of the state into another area.

As a side note, the fine for transporting firewood with EAB in it is $500 per piece. Now that would put a crimp in your vacation.

The rules for state parks, reservoir, forests or state fish and wildlife areas are pretty simple: Use kiln-dried scrap lumber; Indiana-sourced firewood that has all the bark removed; pre-packaged firewood with a USDA compliance stamp; or packaged wood purchased in or near your campground. There are many private campgrounds that will not allow you to bring in your own firewood, so you might want to check first.

One of the questions usually asked is, “How far is too far to move firewood?” As a general rule 50 miles is too far and 10 miles or less is best.

Another question, “My firewood has no holes, bugs, burrows or other odd stuff on it. Is it OK to transport”? The short answer is no, unless you have the ability to see pin-head size eggs or microscopic fungus spores, which I doubt.

So what can you do if you have firewood from a tree that you cut down in your own back yard? You can burn it in your own wood stove or have a really big bonfire and invite the neighbors over for a wiener roast. Just be safe.