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Cass County Extension

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Dutch Elm Disease and Fire Wood

Storing elm firewood, unless the bark has been removed, is an absolute "no-no" if you're concerned about the health of the elm trees in your neighborhood. The elm bark beetle, which is the carrier of Dutch Elm Disease may already be present in the wood; and if they aren't, they may colonize your elm wood pile as a breeding site. They seek out dead or dying elm trees or elm wood piles to lay their eggs.

After the bark beetles hatch out, they can only fly a short distance, but usually that is far enough to reach your healthy elm trees as well as the others in the neighborhood. Repeatedly, we've heard of trees getting Dutch Elm Disease only a few houses away from a large elm wood pile. If you're planning to save a few dollars by heating with elm firewood, just consider the cost of air conditioning for the twenty years it will take to replace the elm trees in your yard. If elms are lost gradually, orderly replacement can occur without total loss of shade.

Debarking the wood, especially if it is infested with the bark beetles or diseased, is a safe wood storage procedure. Destroy the bark that is removed from the elm wood as this is where the beetles will be located. Early in the year the bark should be easy to debark, but as the summer progresses, it becomes more difficult to remove. If elm wood is stored in late fall, it can be stored with the bark remaining, but this wood must be burned before April 1st or the beetles will emerge and infect trees close by.

Storing elm wood inside may keep the wood out of sight, but probably will be of little value in preventing the spread of Dutch Elm Disease.

Todd Weinmann, Extension Horticulturist & Master Gardener Coordinator
Phone: (701) 241-5707

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