Thursday, January 26, 2023

Creepy-Crawlies In Your Firewood

A man and boy carrying firewood. They are in front of a house with a yellow door that has a large front porch with firewood underneath it.
This is the time of year when millions of people are reaching for firewood on a regular basis. For some of these people, wood is a necessity to keep warm and cook food, for others it is a source of comfort and coziness on a wintry day. In any case, firewood can harbor insects that no one wants inside their dwellings.

Close-up of carpenter ants in wood.
Carpenter Ants

There are two basic types of insects that dwell in firewood - those that burrow into and feed on wood (beetles and borers) and those that use the firewood as shelter (sometimes short term, sometimes overwintering). Any type of insect popping out of your wood  can be an unpleasant surprise, but neither of these types pose any real threat to your home. Carpenter ants and termites, on the other hand, can be found in firewood and they have the potential to infest a home. Keeping those two damaging pests at bay begins with the proper storage of firewood – up and off the ground. Wood placed directly on the ground makes it simple for termites to annex your woodpile as an addition to their underground lairs. These insects can also use a woodpile stacked against the house to gain access to the structure, so don’t do that either. 

Close-up of Metallic Wood-Boring Beetle
Metallic Wood-Boring Beetle
There are many species of insects that infest wood like metallic wood-boring beetles, powderpost beetles (aka shothole borers), bark beetles and roundheaded wood borers
Closeup of a horntail wasp - also called wood wasps.
Horntail Wasp
 (aka longhorned beetles). However, there are some wasps (horntail or wood wasps)  that attack wood as well. These types of insects will have been in the wood before it was cut into logs. If you are doing the cutting, you will no doubt see the damage caused to the wood or the insects themselves. If you use commercially cut wood, and most of us do, you should be aware of what to look for. These types of insects feed on and bore into wood throughout their lifespan, which can be a couple of years. If you don’t see the actual insects, you will see the tunnels and other damage they make. For instance, you’ll know you have powderpost beetles by the small piles of sawdust dripping from small holes. There are also wasps that go for dead and dying wood – horntail wasps (aka wood wasps). Generally speaking, these types of insects prefer a moist wood, so you should allow your firewood the dry out thoroughly before bringing it in.

Evidence of a powder post beetle infestation-piles of sawdust below small bore holes in wood.
A closeup of a bark louse.
Bark Louse
There are a lot of different kinds of beetles that make their homes inside firewood, but there are even more creatures that use the woodpile for shelter. These include sowbugs, wood cockroaches, mice, scorpions, spiders, millipedes and centipedes and bark lice. All of these can inadvertently be brought into your house and most pose very little threat to people. The problem is that you don’t want any of them popping out of a woodpile and joining you for a cozy night around the fire. The best way to avoid this is to give the logs a visual once-over to check for webbing or cocoons. After that, shake or knock the logs together to dislodge anything hiding.

Closeup of the invasive Emerald Ash Borer
Emerald Ash Borer
An invasive Asian Longhorned Beetle in motion.
Asian Longhorned Beetle
There are two invasive pests that can be found in firewood that you should be on the lookout for. These are the Asian longhorned beetle and the emerald ash borer. These pests are threatening our native trees and need to be contained. Take a minute to familiarize yourself with these pests so that you will recognize them. If you find any, take the proper steps. This article gives guidance on the Asian longhorned beetle and this one addresses the emerald ash borer. Only buying local firewood (within 50 miles) and not transporting firewood are two easy steps you can take to stop the spread. 

A closeup of a Praying Mantis ootheca (egg case) with several baby mantids are it.
Baby Mantids & Their Ootheca
A word about praying mantids: Over this past Christmas season, there was a lot of chatter about mantid egg cases on Christmas trees. Such a thing is clearly possible, but unlikely. The same can be said for firewood. Praying mantids place their egg cases on trees and bushes, and while they appear quite sturdy, they are not invincible and can be dislodged or damaged by transport. These are some things I’ve learned here at ARBICO from purchasing tens of thousands of wild-gathered mantid oothecas each year. If you do come across an egg case, you should put it outside or in a jar with teeny-tiny holes in it. When it hatches you'll have dozens of baby mantids running amok.

A woman sitting in front of a fireplace with wool socks on holding a coffee cup . She is only visible from the shoulders down.
At this point, you may be considering spraying your firewood with insecticide to avoid any unwanted visitors. But this is an absolute “NO”. Firstly, most insecticides will not penetrate the wood deeply enough to actually be effective. Secondly, insecticides can emit highly toxic fumes that are especially intense when burned. So, just don’t do it. 
A cartoon cat on a chair in front of a fire. It's moving its head and  twiiching its tail.

I have given you some actions to take to reduce the likelihood of pests in your firewood, but this article gives more detailed directions. And their recommendations are easy to do.

Take Care 

Submitted by Pam

Tuesday, January 3, 2023

Six Simple Ways to Start the New Year Right

Happy New Year 2023

As we start 2023 with all the hopes and dreams we have every new year, I’d like to propose a different way of looking at resolutions. Many of us are highly ambitious at this time of year – we want to lose weight, get a better job, start working out, spend more time with the family, etc. However, as the reality of life sets in, these resolutions begin to slide away. As a way to avoid the self-loathing of failed resolutions, I propose mini-resolutions. These are tasks that need doing and that aren’t difficult to do but are, nevertheless, often neglected. If you knock out a few of these at the beginning of the year, you’ll feel like you’ve accomplished something. And the more you do, the better you’ll feel about yourself. Here are some suggestions to get you started:
A young mechanic leaning into the engine of a car.

1) Get Your Car Serviced – Get that oil change done, or even better, get a complete checkup done. Make sure all your systems are running well. An additional advantage is that you’ll know your car is ready for any winter weather coming your way. Be sure to look for coupons and sales; these businesses know that people have less money for their services after Christmas, so you can find really good deals.

Items that fill a first aid kit - bandages, scissors, pins, etc.2) Clean Out Your Medicine Cabinet and Bathroom Drawers – If you are pushing old stuff aside to get to the items that you really want, you need to de-clutter your bathroom supplies. Check expiration dates and throw out old over-the-counter remedies. For prescription medications, edit them as well but first look into the protocols for disposal as many types cannot be thrown directly into the trash or flushed down the toilet. Old makeup or cosmetics that you bought once upon a time and never used need to go. This is also a good time to get rid of those sample sizes you brought home from vacation three years ago. All in all, when in doubt, discard it. Oh, and maybe refill your first aid kit while you’re at it. 

The toes of someone looking down onto a vision board. There is a stack of magazines, scissors and a tape dispenser on the ground by the board.

3) Make a Vision Board – I know that some readers will think this is a bunch of hooey, but I also know that many ambitious and successful people use them. Sometimes just calmly contemplating what you want makes it easier to see the path to your goal. And for creative projects, having visual inspiration nearby is a wonderful thing.  Whether or not you’re a true believer, vision boards can be a lot of fun to make so why not? This article from Oprah Daily has great guidelines and ideas.

Very messy shelves in a pantry.

4) Clean Out Your Pantry – Now that the holidays are over and many of us are determined to eat better, it’s time to approach your pantry or kitchen cabinets. Remove and store or discard those things that are holiday-related. If you won’t be using it until next Christmas or Hanukkah, get it out of there. Old spices lose their oomph, so throw out the old stuff. When one is cleaning out their closet, it’s said that you should discard anything you haven’t worn in a year. I think the same is true in a pantry – if you haven’t eaten or used it in a year it needs to go. While you’re throwing out things, consider eliminating as much processed food as possible. While you may not be ready to make a full commitment to changing your diet, your chances of eating badly go way down if that kind of food is not readily available. 

Santa Claus sitting on a bed mending his red suit.
5) Do Some Mending – Do you have buttons that need to be sewed on, a pulled thread in a sweater or some tears in clothes that need fixing? Maybe a little repair work on your Christmas outfit? Now is the time to do these little chores. Grab everything that needs to be mended and settle down to get it done. This sort of work is perfect to do while bundled up on the couch watching TV on a cold day. And once it’s done, and you have some “new” stuff to wear, you’ll get immediate validation.

A very cluttered desk with the keyboard pulled out underneath it.
6) Clean Out Your Desk or Office Clutter – Now that the holidays are in the rearview mirror, tax season is upon us, and the weather outside is frightful it’s the perfect time to clean up your workspace at home. You can organize your important papers, send out those thank-you notes (yes, people still do this), put up and fill out your new calendar, and evaluate your work and finances from the past year as you go. Right after the holidays is the best time to figure out whether you spent the right amount, or if those credit card bills will affect how much of a vacation you take in the summer. While you’re at it you could beautify your workspace with some new desk d├ęcor. Here are some cute/useful/silly options from Etsy. And if you do this on National Clean Your Desk Day on January 9th, you will get extra points.

Resolutions are a social construct - you are fine. Happy New Year 2023.
If the above projects don’t resonate in your world, consider what you may have “pending” that needs doing. It could be cleaning out the basement, going through and donating baby clothes, getting the carpets cleaned, or updating all the apps on your phone. The important thing is to accomplish something, what that is exactly is less important. Finishing these projects may not ensure a happy and fruitful 2023, but it will assure that you go into it feeling better about yourself. And that makes  nearly everything better.

Happy New Year

Submitted by Pam

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