JEFFERSON CITY, MO (MDC) - Campers crisscrossing the Show Me State over the Labor Day weekend could unwittingly spread a devastating forest pest. That is why the Missouri Department of Conservation is reminding vacationers to buy firewood where they plan to burn it and not take any home.
The emerald ash borer is a green beetle that has caused millions of dollars of damage in forests across the Northeastern United States and the Upper Midwest. Missouri's first infestation was discovered last year in Wayne County.
The beetle's habit of tunneling beneath tree bark, coupled with Americans' love of camping and campfires, has caused the pest to spread more rapidly than it might have otherwise. Campers who take firewood with them from one campsite to another can carry emerald ash borer larvae, which emerge and infest new areas.
Campers can avoid spreading emerald ash borers - along with other forest pests or diseases - by buying firewood in areas where they camp and burning it all before leaving. Even moving firewood from one campground to another in the same neighborhood can spread parasites and diseases. Campers who accidentally move firewood should burn it immediately.
Missouri is one of 13 states where emerald ash borers have been found. The others are Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Wisconsin and Virginia.
Emerald ash borers are not native to the United States. They were discovered first near Detroit in 2002. Experts say the pests probably hitched a ride there in wooden packing material from Asia. The pest has decimated ash tree populations in southern Michigan. So far, no North American ash tree has been found that is resistant to the pest.