Insects in Firewood

Flickr image courtesy of Shay Sowden per CC license

Flickr image courtesy of Shay Sowden per CC license

With the changing of the seasons, we look to the imminent future that lies ahead of us, winter. When the winter winds start blowing, we start preparing our woodpiles for winter stoves to heat our homes throughout the long cold winter. When we do start our piles, we need to decide where to pile it for easiest and quickest access to the home. We also need to take into consideration the insect pests that may lie inside those logs of wood.

There are many different insects that may be overwintering in the wood and some others that are using it as a food supply during the winter months. Insects that may be found in the wood you pile for your wood stoves include:

  • Bark beetles
  • Termites
  • Carpenter ants
  • Wood boring beetles
  • Many more

These insects may not be active due to the cold winter temperatures, but once inside may become active again. Typically, insects in firewood will only be a nuisance pest in your home because they cannot survive in your home.


Termite Colony

Termites would be the most intimidating insect from this list. If you feel, at any time, that you may have termites in your home, or you just are curious, you can call a pest control company to do an inspection. If they find termites in your home, you have a couple of choices of how to control the termites. You can use either bait stations, these can be above ground or in the ground, or you can use a barrier spray. Either of these methods of control have their place; it really depends on the situation. Allow your chemical control company to help you decide which to use.

A couple of tips to remember when making your woodpile for the winter are to not stack your woodpile directly on the ground and only bring in wood as needed. The first tip to avoiding bringing insects into your home with firewood would be to not stack your woodpile directly on the ground. This is an important reminder for any time of the year. This tip is to avoid termite damage. Termites can get into, and feed on, any wood that comes into direct contact with the soil. If you pile wood up against your house with the pile starting directly on the ground, termites can sense the wood pile and work their way through the wood to your home.

Firewood pile

Flickr image courtesy of Steven Severinghaus per CC license

You also should only bring inside the wood that you will be using right away to avoid insects getting into your home and flying around.   Wood boring insects will not come out of the wood and begin feeding on your furniture or any other wood material, but they will be moving around in your home, if you let the wood warm up too much. Wood that remains at a temperature of less than 50 degrees Fahrenheit will keep any insects inside of it at a dormant stage, meaning that they will be overwintering with no real action from the insect. If you bring too much wood into your home at a time, the wood will warm up and the insect could emerge from the wood and move around your home. If you bring only a few pieces of wood into your home at a time, you will be placing it into the fire before the insect is able to emerge and it will die in the fire.

Having a fireplace is a wonderful way to warm up and to save money on the heating bills in the winter time. Just make sure to stack it in a manner that avoids insect entry into our homes.




fall landscape

In the fall we have a lot of leaves to remove from our lawns. It is not a good practice to leave the fallen leaves on the lawn as it can lead to snow mold if we get a lot of snow that sits on top of the leaves on the lawn. We can mow over the leaves to help reduce that problem, but if you want to get rid of your leaves in another manner, a compost pile is a good way to reuse these leaves and grass clippings.

A compost pile is a good way to recycle fallen leaves and spent garden plants at the end of the season. You can put many types of organic materials into a compost pile and then use that in the spring to amend your garden soil and help with fertility for your plants. Composting is a good way to save money by avoiding purchasing other organic matter to use in your garden and avoiding payments for removal of your yard wastes.

Many materials can be put into a compost pile. Some of these items include:

  • Leaves
  • Grass clippings
  • Straw
  • Non-woody plant trimmings
  • Fruit and vegetable scraps
  • Coffee grounds
  • Egg shells
  • Sawdust
  • Remains of garden plants
  • Shredded newspaper
  • Hay
  • Cornstalks
  • Chopped corncobs
  • Wood ashes

Certain things cannot be placed in a compost pile because they do not or cannot break down in a compost pile or they may draw the attention of wildlife which can cause many other problems.  Do NOT compost:

  • Any plant materials that were diseased, or infested with insects or weeds as those things may not die in a compost pile
  • Grass clippings that have been treated with pesticides
  • Pet feces
  • Meat products
  • Fatty foods
  • Whole eggs
  • Dairy products
  • Peanut butter

Compost Pile; Photo from Cornell University

Compost piles can be made as just a pile in the yard or it can be placed in a holding unit or a turning bin or even just in a trashcan. The pile should be at least 3 feet long, wide, and tall and it needs to be no taller than 5 feet. The pile should be moist, but not too wet. A good recommendation for this is that it should be comparable to a wrung-out sponge.

The compost pile should be started in layers to help with decomposition.

  1. 4-6 inches of chopped brush or coarse material to help with air circulation
  2. 3-4 inches of damp, low carbon, organic material such as grass clippings
  3. 4-6 inches of high carbon, damp, organic material such as leaves or garden waste
  4. 1 inch of soil or finished compost
  5. Optional layer of 2-3 inches of manure for nitrogen content

After the initial building of the compost pile and that material has begun to decompose, the process is fairly simple. You need to turn the materials often enough to keep the temperature between 110-114 degrees Fahrenheit and to make sure that all parts of the pile eventually end up in the middle to get hot enough to break down. You also need to ensure that the moisture content is correct throughout the process. Additional water may be needed to keep the pile going. As you turn the pile, you can add other items from your garden or your kitchen.

Your compost is ready to use when it has an earthy odor, when it cools off, and when it is dark and crumbly. At this time, it can be tilled into your garden to help reduce compaction and to add nutrients back into the soil.

Finished compost-UFlorida

Finished Compost; Photo by Robert Trawick, University of Florida Extension




Emerald Ash Borer

I had the wonderful opportunity to travel on a professional development opportunity to Colorado last week. I traveled with horticulture and entomology colleagues from across the state to Colorado Springs, Boulder, Denver, and Fort Collins to study how they deal with an almost constant drought and to see the damage from Emerald Ash Borer.

Xeric Gardens in Colorado Springs, CO.

Xeric Gardens in Colorado Springs, CO.

I had a blast at the Denver Botanic Gardens and learned some great information regarding Xeric gardens, or water conserving gardens. I also saw some great new plants to try in the annual and perennial trial gardens at Colorado State University, but my favorite part of this professional development trip was visiting with the Extension faculty from Colorado State University about Emerald Ash Borer (EAB).

Denver Botanic Gardens

Denver Botanic Gardens

Boulder, Colorado is the first and only county to have found EAB in Colorado. We were informed of the steps that Boulder County and the Colorado State Department of Agriculture took to help reduce the spread of this invasive insect into other counties and towns in Colorado. We were then taken to a site with massive damage from EAB to see what this insect does to the trees. It was good for me to see it live for myself to know what to look for in Nebraska.

Photo by Leah Bauer, USDA Forest Service Northern Research Station, - See more at:

Photo by Leah Bauer, USDA Forest Service Northern Research Station,

As of today, Emerald Ash Borer has not been found in Nebraska, but we should be on the lookout for it as it has been found in Iowa, Missouri, Kansas, and Colorado. EAB is a small, metallic green, wood-boring insect that is invasive. It came to the United States via wood-packing materials from China and was first discovered in Michigan in 2002. Because EAB is an invasive insect, it has no natural predators to keep the population in check.

Emerald Ash Borer attacks healthy and stressed true ash trees, it does not attack mountain ash which is not a true ash species. EAB larvae feed on the inner bark of the ash trees, which causes a disruption of the flow of water and nutrients throughout the tree. If you have an ash tree that exhibits any of these signs, please let me know so we can check it out to ensure EAB does not get into or go unnoticed in Nebraska.

EAB Damage Collage

The damage from EAB can show up in your ash tree as

  • Top dieback
  • Sprouting at the base of the tree
  • Increased woodpecker damage
  • Larval galleries under the bark of the tree
  • 1/8 inch D-shaped exit hole
  • Bark cracks
  • Reduced size of the leaves still on the tree

Insecticide treatments are available for Emerald Ash Borer but are not recommended until the insect has been confirmed within 15 miles of your trees. The insecticides used can be applied either via a soil drench or trunk injection. Trunk injections are only to be done by trained professionals. Insecticide treatment efficacy depends on the size of the tree, the insecticide used and how it is applied, and the damage the tree has already acquired. If it is a high value ash tree, treatments can be effective, but are not feasible on a large quantity of trees.