The USDA is launching a campaign urging campers and anyone else to never move firewood from the area where it was cut. Agency spokeswoman Sharon Lucik says the cold weather has no impact on a destructive pest, the emerald ash borer, which stows away on firewood.

“During the winter months, it just stays under the bark and then it’s right around this time, when the days get longer and the weather gets warmer, that’s the turnkey for it to finish its lifecycle,” Lucik says. “Right now, some adult beetles may be flying in Iowa.”

The insect was first discovered last year in northeast Iowa’s Allamakee County but hasn’t been found anywhere else in Iowa. Lucik says it’s hoped campers are getting the message from the campaign, “Promise Not To Move Firewood.”

“What people need to understand is, although the pest is a good flier on its own, it doesn’t fly long distances,” Lucik says. “When people move infested firewood from one place to another, they are spreading the pest hundreds and hundreds of miles.”

The emerald ash borer was first discovered in Michigan in 2002 and has since spread to 14 other states and killed tens of millions of ash trees.

“This is an invisible pest; you don’t always see it and that’s part of the problem,” Lucik says. “People will look at their firewood and they won’t see anything crawling on it and they’ll think, ‘Oh, not a problem, I can move this,’ but that’s not the case. Moving firewood is a risky behavior and people need to stop it, not only in your state but in all of the states.”

Iowans who have ash trees should look them over for signs they’re being attacked by these tiny green bugs. Bare branches may appear at the top of the tree and there may be increased woodpecker activity, she says. Also, in a heavy infestation, the bark of the ash tree may loosen up and fall off.

Lucik says 15-hundred purple-colored traps are being set in Iowa this spring that aim to help determine if the pest is spreading beyond Allamakee County.

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