Let's put things into perspective.
Once upon a time, an estimated 8.7 billion ash trees grew across North America. In some cities, ash trees accounted for about 50 percent of the trees used in public landscaping.
Then a little green beetle called the emerald ash borer arrived in Michigan in 2002. People soon discovered that North American ash trees had no resistance to the insect.
You can understand why the public was concerned.
The emerald ash borer since has made its way to 35 states plus Washington, D.C., and has killed hundreds of millions of ash trees across the continent.
The good news is that using your log splitter can help stop its spread.
Most people know emerald ash borer as a shiny green beetle. This is the beetle in its adult form. As an adult, emerald ash borer will feed on ash tree leaves but will do surprisingly little damage.
The worst problems come from ash borers that have just hatched from their eggs, or larvae. Adult emerald ash borers lay their eggs on the bark of ash trees. When the larvae hatch, they burrow into the ash tree to feed.
Emerald ash borer larvae will tunnel into the parts of the wood responsible for growth and nutrient transport. If enough larvae are present, they can effectively cut off circulation to the tree's upper reaches and kill it.
That's not the worst of it. Because there are so many ash trees in place throughout the United States, emerald ash borer can move easily from tree to tree, causing the infestation to spread.
Couple that with the fact that North American ash trees have no natural defenses against this invasive species, and you can understand why this little green beetle is so destructive.
As mentioned before, emerald ash borer can move easily from one tree to another. With so many ash trees in the U.S., it's simple for them to find new wood to chew.
Unfortunately, the larvae can remain present under the bark even after a tree is cut into firewood. If firewood is transported from an infected area, any larvae in the firewood can quickly make a previously uninfected area their new home.
Because of this, federal and state laws exist to prevent infected wood from being transported into uninfected areas.
They're serious laws, too. Depending on the state and county, fines for violating firewood transport bans can range from $1000 to $250,000, with jail time an additional option.
The wood in your woodpile should only come from local sources. If you live in an uninfected area, you don't want to introduce an invasive species that puts every ash tree around you at risk.
Even when you're not splitting or burning firewood, you can look for and report to your nearest county office any of the telltale signs of an emerald ash borer infestation:
If you do plan on starting a bonfire, your best bet is to use local firewood.
If you have access to a fallen tree and you're burning wood at home, use your log splitter to split firewood that you know won't have been brought in from an infected area.
Commercial firewood sellers have to follow rules that regulate how far their firewood can be transported. If you're buying wood, you can ask where your seller gets its supply.
If you're camping, follow the rules of the campground, and use only the wood that the campground provides or approves.
Having local wood available will still allow campfire s’mores while keeping the nasty bug at bay.