Bringing firewood to campsites threatens state’s forests

By Tom Hallman

Ash Borer (USDA)The weekend finally arrives. You escape to the woods, pitch a tent, roast your marshmallows -- and destroy South Carolina's beautiful ash trees.  

OK, so you didn't mean to destroy the ash trees. But that's what can happen when you bring your own firewood into your favorite campsite.  

"Bringing firewood into state parks and campsites from other places is a leading cause of importing invasive species into our forests," said Sherry Aultman of Clemson’s department of plant industry. "It seems like such a simple, innocent thing, but it can be deadly to our native trees."  

Ash Borer TrapFirewood can harbor any number of nasty bugs, both under the bark and inside the wood itself.  

Among the most sinister is the emerald ash borer, a green beetle native to Asia.  

As coordinator Clemson’s Cooperative Agricultural Pest Survey, one of Aultman’s jobs is to keep an eye out for the ash borer and other damaging pests.  

Clemson’s Regulatory Services division is charged with monitoring and, when possible, eradicating invasive plant and pest species in South Carolina. The unit has set up traps in forests throughout the state to provide an early warning of the ash borer’s arrival.  

The distinctive two-foot-long purple traps, which hang from tree limbs by a metal hook, include a natural plant oil scent to attract the beetles and are covered with a glue that will capture them. Purple was chosen because it's the color most likely to attract the bugs.  

“It’s not a matter of if, but when the ash borer gets here,” Aultman said. “We’re trying to be as alert as possible to slow their spread.  

“South Carolina is fortunate to have several different species of ash trees,” she said. “They’re a beautiful tree and also a very useful one. We want to protect them as best we’re able.”  

Learn more about the Clemson’s Cooperative Agricultural Pest Survey online: