The Utah Department of Agriculture and Food is warning Utahns not to transport firewood across state lines because the wood could be harboring invasive insects.
Building fires is one of the most enjoyable parts about camping, but state officials are asking you to make sure you are only purchasing or collecting firewood from local sources. Invasive insects transported in firewood can cause damage to forests and agricultural fields.
“Some of them will feed on our crops so they’ll specifically feed on the fruit or the vegetable, but then with some of the forest pests, they will tunnel into the wood to develop and that disrupts the trees’ ability to transport water and nutrients—so it will eventually kill the tree,” said Lori Spears who works for Utah State University Extension and is one of Utah’s invasive species survey coordinators.
A recent legislative rule aiming to quarantine invasive insects has tightened the labeling requirements for firewood sellers. This includes labelling where the firewood originated and whether it is heat-treated. Spears said it is important to check these labels to make sure the wood is from a local area. Even if the wood does not appear to contain insects, there still may be risks.
“The wood that looks healthy may still be harboring insect eggs or insect larvae inside the firewood," she said. "The insect eggs in some cases are very small, so unless you know what you are looking for, you are not going to see them. It is not just insects that can be transferred in firewood. It can also be diseases, fungi or other invasive pests.”
Spears recommends you do not travel more than 50 miles with purchased or collected firewood.
For more information on invasive pests visit Utah State University Extension's page for the Cooperatative Agricultural Pest Survey (CAPS) program