With the arrival of spring, homeowners and gardeners are beginning the task of cleaning up their yards and gardens to prepare for the growing season. However, gardeners, landscapers, and anyone working outside this spring need to know that tree branches, firewood, and cleared brush can harbor invasive insects and diseases, making proper use or disposal critical to preventing the spread of tree-killing pests.
More than 450 non-native forest insects and diseases are now established in the United States. While most can’t move far on their own, many pests can hitchhike undetected on firewood and brush, starting new infestations in locations hundreds of miles away. These infestations can destroy forests, lower property values, and cost huge sums of money to control. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, estimates for damage costs in urban areas for just one invasive pest, the Asian longhorned beetle, range from $1.7 billion for nine selected cities to $669 billion for the entire United States.
Here are some tips for a pest-free spring cleanup:
- If you don’t want to keep your firewood until next winter, don’t be tempted to take it with you when camping, and don’t bring it along on any road trips. Instead, give it to your next-door neighbor, burn or chip it on site, or dispose of it locally.
- Hire a tree service or rent a tree chipper to shred fallen trees and branches and brush into mulch for your own garden beds and landscaping projects.
- Many areas now offer a yard waste recycling program. Contact your municipal solid waste management department for information specific to your area.
- If a yard waste recycling or composting program is not available, and you cannot keep it on site, brush, logs, and branches should be disposed of in a local landfill.
- Take care to respect all state and local regulations on the movement of firewood and other unprocessed wood – some areas are subject to serious fines for violations.
- During your spring cleanup, if you notice an insect or tree disease you don’t recognize, take a photo or obtain a specimen of it, and compare it to website photos of the suspected pest.
- If you believe you have found a new outbreak of an invasive insect or disease, contact your state department of agriculture.
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