As tree pests are spreading, take care with firewood

This holiday season, some creatures may be stirring around the house, and many are concerned they're in your firewood.

The problem of invasive species and their potential threat to our forests has mandated a ban on exporting any firewood from New Haven County, which has been found to harbor the emerald ash borer, an insect that can acutely cut short the life of ash trees, which are common throughout the state.

Kate Throckmorton of Environmental Land Solutions, LLC, in Norwalk, warns that people should know where their firewood is coming from in order to protect the health of our forests.

Ms. Throckmorton, who is chair of the town's tree commission, recommends buying wood in a five-to 10-mile radius of one's home and asking firewood merchants where supplies originated.

"Don't move your firewood" is a simple message that now even has an entire website devoted to it ( The site features games, coloring pages for kids, and newsletters on invasive species and burning and moving advice.

As pests, fungi and tree disease spread by means of firewood, the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection is helping to raise awareness with information on protecting our woodlands.

"New infestations destroy our forests, property values, and cost huge sums of money to control," according to the state website.

The site offers help on determining types of wood that can be used in fires, how to store kindling, and how to properly cut and dispose of wood.

The state Division of Forestry also lists advice on obtaining permits, which are required for cutting wood throughout Connecticut.

Although many pests cannot travel very far on their own, they are able to spread fairly quickly when transported, even after the wood has been burned because insect larvae could still survive.

"This is of special concern when the insect or disease is an invasive exotic that is not yet established in a region, such as the Asian longhorned beetle, the emerald ash borer or thousand cankers disease," according to a release by the National Firewood Task Force.

The task force was constructed to protect the health of state forestry, and a complete list of recommendations are available on the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection website (

Fifty miles is generally regarded as too far a distance to transport wood, and the optimal range is 10 miles or less.

Fallen limbs and brush on property can be left to rot, chipped into mulch, burned in fire pits or brought to nearby landfills.

When storing wood outdoors, it is important to keep supplies away from homes to avoid ants, termites and mice. Outdoor wood should be kept in a dry area, preferably stacked under a tarp or in a shed.

Various insects in the state that can be harmful to forestry include the Asian long-horned beetle, the Asian gypsy moth, the emerald ash borer, the nun moth, and the pine shoot beetle. Diseases include oak wilt, bacterial leaf scorch and plum pox.