Many are moving, cutting and preparing firewood for burning this winter, particularly with the continued high prices of fossil fuels. In general, most firewood pests pose no direct threat structurally to the home, its contents, or people in the home. However, some insects can cause damage or at least be of nuisance. During winter, insects are dormant.
Therefore one does not need to worry that insects will crawl out immediately upon bringing wood into the house. Insects in the wood need several days of warmth to come out of dormancy. Development of larva is hastened when wood is inside the home inwarm conditions.
There are several insect species to be alert for that may be found in firewood. Wood boring beetles like the long horn beetle are commonly found. Eggs are laid in the wood while it was still green and thus already in the wood prior to being cut for firewood. These eggs become larva and when wood is stored inside where temperatures are warm, these beetles may emerge during mid winter. Flathead borers can also be found and behave very similarly except that they typically emerge during the summer. The infamous emerald ash borer (EAB) is a flathead borer. The EAB is one of many reasons why one should never transport firewood from one location in the state or country to another as this pest is spreading and is now only three counties away in two directions. Bark beetles tunnel leaving impressive galleries just under the bark of dead or near dead trees. Carpenter ants can be a problem in wood that has higher than normal moisture content. This would be particularly true of wood stored directly with contact to the ground. Otherwise many spiders, small beetles, wood roaches, sowbugs, pillbugs, wasps, ants, and small flies may hide or overwinter in firewood. Many of the small wasps are parasitic or beneficial in terms of being enemies of the wood boring insects.
The good news is that none of the above insects will attack finished or seasoned wood in the home. Carpenter ants may attack wood in wet craw spaces or basements. Termites have not been discussed to this point because they do warrant more attention when storing firewood. Firewood should never be treated for termites. Termites accidentally brought inside with firewood will not infest structural wood. However anytime firewood is stored around the yard not far from a home, a termite inspection is a good idea.
Some guidelines mentioned in the recently revised Purdue Entomology pub E-67 entitled "Insects in Firewood" include: cut wood in mid to late fall, bring firewood indoors only as needed (at most 2-3 day supply), and never stack wood against a house or garage.
Some firewood species like ash can be cut and burned within weeks as it is very low in moisture content. Other species like oak or maple may need to season for several months. Happy chain-sawing and splitting this fall and winter.
Be safe and wear proper clothing (no dangling strings), chaps (a good investment), boots and ear plugs.
You can contact the local Purdue Extension Office by calling 829-5020 Ext. 14 in Owen County or 448-9041 in Clay County for more information or publication copies regarding this week's column topic or to RSVP for upcoming events. Please call first to assure items are ready when you arrive and to RSVP for programs. While most publications are free, some do have a fee. All times listed are Eastern Time.
Nov. 29 Vegetable Variety Trial Showcase, Spencer, 6:45 p.m.
Dec. 4 Bi-State Crops Conference, Beef House-Covington, 9 a.m.
Dec. 6 Private Applicator Recertification Program, Brazil
Dec. 6 Income Tax Management for Farmers
Dec. 6-8 Indiana Farm Bureau State Convention, Indy
Dec. 11 Private Applicator Recertification Program, Stinesville
Jan. 28-30 Indiana Hort Congress, Indianapolis
Feb. 13-16 National Farm Machinery Show, Louisville, Ky.