“We have several notable examples of pests being spread by firewood,” said Dr. Chris Asaro, forest health specialist for the Virginia Department of Forestry. “The circumstantial evidence is pretty strong based on the way certain pests have been moving around so quickly, far faster than their normal spread, or the proximity of new infestations near campgrounds or interstate highways.”
One of the top insect pests that moves around in firewood is the emerald ash borer. Another is the gypsy moth. Both live in dead and dying wood.
“The emerald ash borer has spread to more than 20 states in just the past 12 years. Firewood is a big risk, because the bark is usually left on the log, and that’s where the pest lives. So you could move firewood that’s infested, and the pest could survive and escape into the surrounding environment,” Asaro said.
“Emerald ash borer has been in Virginia since 2004, and it’s spread now to 21 counties, scattered all around the state. Parts of Northern Virginia and Southside Virginia have the largest infestations.”
Because firewood is easy to ship, there can be instances where out-of-state wood costs less than local wood. Purchasing firewood from a local source reduces the risk of pests hitching a ride to a new area, Asaro said, because dealers know where the trees were harvested and whether there are insect infestations in the area.
If you do purchase firewood, the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services recommends measuring your delivery yourself before using any of the wood.
A cord of firewood is 128 cubic feet, usually measured as a stack 4 feet wide by 4 feet tall and 8 feet long, or 2 feet wide by 4 feet high and 16 feet long. That’s larger than a standard pickup truck bed.
By law, firewood sellers are required to provide a delivery ticket or sales invoice to the buyer of any non-packaged fireplace or stove wood. VDACS recommends buyers keep that ticket as proof of purchase; pay by check so they have a record of the purchase; write down the license plate number of the delivery vehicle; and contact the seller first if there is reason to believe the delivery was short. If a firewood seller does not cooperate, contact the VDACS Office of Weights and Measures at 804-786-2476 to ask for a weights and measures inspector to measure the wood.