Stoke the fire…

December 12, 2012

Stoke the fire and enjoy its warmth, but be on the lookout this holiday season for infested firewood. This is the time of year many Floridians light their fireplaces and outdoor fire pits – hopefully remembering to place importance on using firewood from local sources or purchasing state or federally certified firewood.  The unregulated movement of firewood and other unprocessed wood products create major pathways into the state for harmful pests and diseases. These invasive pests include the emerald ash borer, the Asian longhorned beetle and the redbay ambrosia beetle. The spread of these invasive species in Florida can be avoided by not moving firewood.

In August of 2010, the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services enacted the Firewood Movement Rule; Rule No. 5B-65, to safeguard the state from the unwanted introduction of wood pests and disease pathogens.

To further protect the state, invasive pest survey and trapping programs are conducted. For example, the emerald ash borer trapping program consists of 200 traps at 25 sites throughout the state.  The state has also surveyed for the Asian longhorned beetle, which thankfully yielded no sightings. Currently, Florida is battling the redbay ambrosia beetle, the insect that spreads laurel wilt – a plant disease that is destroying red bay trees, and other trees in the laurel family including the economically important avocado tree. Since the redbay ambrosia was introduced into Florida in 2005 there have been 38 counties infected.  Due to the importance of eradicating this pest, we are asking homeowners and Guac lovers to be report any suspicious sighting.

Here is a quick glimpse at the above mentioned pests:

Emerald Ash Borer –

The emerald ash borer (EAB) is an exotic beetle discovered in southeastern Michigan in the summer of 2002. EAB probably arrived in the United States on solid wood packing material carried in cargo ships or airplanes originating in its native Asia. It has spread to several surrounding states, where it has killed tens of millions of ash trees. It is slowly approaching the Southeast and may pose a threat to trees in Florida. EAB is a very small but very destructive beetle it is metallic green in color, its slender body measures 1/2-inch long and 1/8-inch wide. The average adult beetle can fit easily on a penny.

Early symptoms of an infestation might include dead branches near the top of a tree or wild, leafy shoots growing out from its lower trunk. In addition, you may see D-shaped exit holes and bark splits exposing S-shaped tunnels in the tree. Woodpecker activity might also indicate the presence of EABs. If a tree is infested with the EAB, tree removal is the most effective way to eliminate these exotic pests and prevent further spread. EAB has cost municipalities, property owners, nursery operators and forest products industries tens of millions of dollars.

Asian Longhorned Beetle –

The Asian Longhorned Beetle (ALB) is a wood boring beetle indigenous to Japan, Korea, and China. It is intercepted at ports of entry as it emerges from wood used for pallets and packing materials. In 1996, it was discovered infesting and killing trees in New York.  The infestation in New York occurred most seriously in maples and horsechesnut. Other trees infested and killed in the United States include ash, poplar, willow, elm, mulberry and black locust. Many of these same and closely related species occur in Florida.

Large size and distinctive markings of the ALB make it relatively easy to identify. Adults grow up to 1 inch with antennae that are 1 to 2.5 times the length of its body. The ALB is distinguished with a black body with about 20 white spots. The antennae are decorated with alternating bands of black and white and the legs of the ALB are bluish-white on the upper surface.

Redbay Ambrosia Beetle –

The redbay ambrosia beetle is native to India, Japan, Myanmar, and Taiwan. However, the origin of the fungus that accompanies the beetle and causes laurel wilt is not known. The fungus is presumed to have been introduced with the beetle. The beetle and fungus are not known to be major pests in their native range. The beetle is believed to have been introduced into Georgia in 2002 by infested packing materials, such as wooden crates and pallets. In Asia and the United States, the redbay ambrosia beetle appears to be most attracted to woody plants in the laurel family. 

Florida has numerous species in the laurel family; some of these are forest species, some of ornamental value, and one, avocado, is a major commercial fruit crop. At present, the Florida avocado industry covers about 7,400 acres and is estimated to be worth about $13 million annually. The beetle is dark brown to black, cylinder-shaped, similar to other ambrosia beetles found in Florida. The male beetles are smaller than the females and cannot fly. In contrast, the females are strong flyers. Symptoms of the beetles consist of small strings of compacted sawdust protruding from the bore holes in the trunk or limbs of the tree, bark removal showing small bore holes in the tree, and leaf and young stem wilting in sections of the tree.

If you observe any of these beetles, try to collect a specimen in a pill bottle or small jar and contact the Division of Plant Industry, Florida Department of Agriculture & Consumer Services, which has personnel trained to identify, survey and control plant pests. Prompt reporting will help limit the extent and severity of these undesirable exotic insect.  DPI Helpline number is 1-888-397-1517.

Help preserve the security of our forests from these pests. For more information about firewood safety, check out our video at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FVMBEmJ5DHI. For a gallery of pests and FAQS, visit http://www.dontmovefirewood.org/.





One Response to “Stoke the fire…”

  1. The red beetle will need to be disposed of if we want to continue our plant life in Florida.

    -Samudaworth Tree Service

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