By JOSH VARDAMAN
Courier staff writer
---- — OTTUMWA — Sitting around a fire on Christmas sounds like the perfect way to spend the holiday. But those who use wood for fireplaces or any other reason should be careful about what kind and where they buy it from.
The Emerald Ash Borer (EAB) was found in multiple places around Iowa during the fall, and it has been found again in a new county. According to a press release by Iowa State University Extension on Thursday, an EAB infestation was found in Creston, the county seat of Union County.
Union County is the fifth Iowa county to have been positively identified with having an EAB infestation. The previous four are Allamakee County in May 2010, Des Moines County in July 2013, Jefferson County in Aug. 2013 and Cedar County in Oct. 2013.
On Nov. 1, 25 counties in eastern Iowa, including Wapello County, were placed under EAB quarantine. Under the quarantine, the moving of hardwood firewood, ash logs, wood chips and ash tree nursery stock out of the quarantined county is restricted. That is so the possibly infected wood can’t be transported to uninfected areas by humans, which is one of the best ways to stop the spread of EAB, according to Tivon Feely, Iowa Department of Natural Resources Forest Health Coordinator.
During the winter months, EAB go into a dormant larval stage, which is when they are arguably the most dangerous to ash trees. The larvae lie inside the bark of ash trees until about mid-June, and feed off of the water and nutrient vessels inside the tree, causing the tree to die.
At the moment the insects are not moving on their own. One of the only ways they can be transported to new areas is through humans transporting infected wood. Those buying firewood are encouraged to buy locally, and to make sure where they are buying from has been inspected by the proper officials to make sure the wood is safe.
According to Feely, there are rules in place that are trying to combat the spread of EAB.
“The rule requires that anyone who carries or transports firewood, even if they transport it themselves, have a receipt,” he said. “The approximate amount of wood, date and location should be taken. That gives us an idea of where it can be found.”
If someone suspects their ash trees could be infected by EAB, there are some tree symptoms that could give a clearer answer. Woodpecker flecking will show some places where the birds are trying to break through the bark looking for larvae, and there are also D-shaped EAB exit holes that can be found in trees.
If symptoms of EAB are found in ash trees, it is encouraged that they are reported to either ISU Extension or Iowa DNR immediately. There are also chemical treatments that can be used, but Feely urges against that while it is still winter.
“We remind people that if they are considering treating their ash trees to not do it until spring,” he said. “No chemicals can move through the trees because the tree is frozen. Now would be a good time to plan, but not to actually treat.”
Stopping EAB from spreading to other areas of Iowa and the United States is going to take effort by anyone using firewood. Homeowners with ash trees on their property are highly encouraged to check for the presence of EAB, and contact ISU Extension or Iowa DNR with any questions or information.
— To see reporter Josh Vardaman's Twitter feed, go to @CourierJosh