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Illinois hunting and fishing

Dante Broccardo, left, and Jeff Kittell load pieces of a maple tree into the back of their truck. Steve Broccardo, owner of Tree Busters, was removing the tree and plans to sell the pieces for firewood. Jason Johnson/The State Journal-Register

Keep firewood local to keep emerald ash borer away

January 05, 2012 at 11:18 PM

The State Journal-Register

When Steve Broccardo cuts up an old tree for firewood, chances are it won’t be burned in a fireplace far from Springfield.

“Ninety-nine percent of my business is right here,” said Broccard, who operates Tree Busters, a tree service based in Springfield.

“I cut trees down for people in the area, and I keep the best ones for firewood,” he said.

At this time of year, the Illinois Department of Agriculture is urging people to pay close attention to where their firewood comes from — and to buy firewood close to home.

“Our preference is that all firewood be purchased and consumed locally,” said Jeff Squibb, spokesman with the Illinois Department of Agriculture.

Knowing where the firewood originated can slow the spread of the emerald ash borer, a pest responsible for the deaths of millions of ash trees.

Illinois hunting and fishing
Photo courtesy of Phil Nixon/University of Illinois.

The emerald ash borer is a half-inch-long, metallic-green beetle whose larvae girdle twigs of ash trees, eventually killing them.

Ash trees are often planted as street trees in cities.

Officials suspect the movement of infested firewood and nursery stock has helped the beetle move long distances to new parts of the state.

The emerald ash borer has not been confirmed in Sangamon County, but the most recent quarantine map includes McLean, DeWitt, Macon and Shelby counties to the east.

The beetle was discovered in Michigan in 2002 and spread to Illinois by 2006. Since then, 40 percent of the state has come to be under quarantine, from Chicago to Marion County.

Ash trees and related products cannot be moved out of quarantine areas.

The beetle probablly arrived in the United States from Asia in wooden packing materials.

Ash trees, like other hardwoods, make good firewood.

“The best hardwoods are oak, cherry and ash,” Broccardo said. “Fruitwood like pear and apple trees, mulberry and locust also make good firewood.”

When the beetle first arrived, experts expressed hope the vast expanse of corn and soybean fields in central Illinois would create a natural barrier.

But a map of occurrences shows most appearances of the beetle outside Chicago corresponding to major interstate highways or rail lines.

Many points on the map are separated by up to 100 miles.

“Looking at the map is very illuminating,” Squibbs said. “We are starting to find this thing along highways and near rest stops.

“In our experience, it is more likely to have been spread by man.”

Chris Young can be reached at (217) 788-1528.


*Natural predators

Experts are experimenting with natural predators of the emerald ash borer in northern Illinois.

About 1,000 wasps were introduced into a forest preserve in Lake County in September to combat the beetle, which is native to Asia. Wasps also were released in forest preserves in Cook County in 2009, but success was limited.

The wasps, which are native to China, feed on the larvae of emerald ash borers.

*Chemical treatments

Individual ash trees can be protected with chemical treatments. Experts recommend treatment of specimen trees or historic trees once the beetle is confirmed in the area.

Thousand cankers disease

Another pest on the horizon for Illinois is the walnut twig beetle, which causes thousand cankers disease in black walnut trees.

Arborist Guy Sternberg from Petersburg says efforts to stop the flow of walnut wood into Illinois have been ineffective.

“Every time we bring it up to government officials, it falls on deaf ears,” he said. “They are waiting until they find (the beetle) in the state and then trying to contain it instead of blocking it from coming into the state.”

Sternberg said he hopes officials adopt a policy to stop the transportation of unprocessed walnut wood into Illinois.

“Now is a very high-risk time to bring it in here,” he said. “It just takes one person bringing in the beetle to start the process.”

On the Web

Map of known emerald ash borer locations and quarantine zone boundaries

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