Forestry officials in Scotland County are urging people to use local firewood to avoid carrying in tree-killing insects from other states.
Officials are focused on the redbay ambrosia beetle and the European gypsy moth. Both insects can devastate trees and forests, according to Neal McRae, assistant county ranger for Scotland County.
The redbay ambrosia beetle, which transmits the destructive laurel wilt, and the gypsy moth have been discovered along the borders of North Carolina.
McRae said the biggest cause for the invasion is firewood.
“The use of local firewood is important in preventing the spread of potentially devastating invasive species to our state’s forests,” McRae said. “We hope people will keep this in mind as they prepare for your outdoor recreation activities.”
He said North Carolina residents and visitors should use local firewood that comes from within a 50 miles radius of where it was cut.
“You should never bring firewood into North Carolina from another state,” McRae said. “If firewood comes in by mistake, make sure it is burned as soon as possible. Never leave unused firewood behind at the burn site.”
The gypsy moth lays egg masses on firewood. Other invasive insects, including the redbay ambrosia beetle, the emerald ash borer, Sirex woodwasp, and the Asian longhorned beetle, can complete their life cycle within the firewood and emerge as adults at a new location. Invasive pathogens can also be present on firewood and produce spores that infect and kill oaks.
“The gypsy moth, an invasive species frequently confused with the relatively benign tent caterpillar, is a destructive pest of forest and shade trees,” McRae said. “It has defoliated more than 1 million acres since 1980.”
The gypsy moth was introduced around Boston about a hundred years ago and has since been headed south and west. The gypsy moth is present in North Carolina but not currently well established. Portions of Currituck and Dare counties are in quarantine for this insect. The majority of the infestation is currently contained at the Virginia state line, with a large portion of Virginia state-line counties in quarantine.
This tiny exotic beetle was first detected in North Carolina this March 2011, in Bladen County, by the North Carolina Forest Service. The beetle transmits the fungus which causes the disease known as laurel wilt. The combination is generally fatal to red bay, which is an important maritime forest species and is also sometimes found in the landscape. The decline of red bay may have secondary implications for some animals and other plant species, forestry officials said.
Also, homeowners with dead redbay trees should keep cut trees on their property. Proper disposal of redbay includes leaving wood on-site, cutting or chipping wood on-site, or burning wood on-site in compliance with local ordinances. Dead trees should not be taken to a landfill or somewhere else to be used as firewood.
For information, go to www.dontmovefirewood.org/ or http://dfr.nc.gov., or call Brian R. Haines, public information officer with the N.C. Division of Forest Resources, at (919) 857-4828.