St. Paul, MN (KROC-AM News) - Governor Mark Dayton has proclaimed this week as Emerald Ash Borer Awareness Week in Minnesota.

The proclamation is aimed at drawing attention to the destruction being caused by the tiny green beetle, which was first detected in the state in Houston County five years ago. It has since spread into several nearby counties, including Olmsted and Winona counties, and most recently Fillmore County. EAB infestations have also been found at a number of sites around the Twin Cities. Minnesota currently has nearly a billion ash trees, which is the most of any state in the U.S., and the economic losses from EAB infestations could be huge. To halt, or at least slow the spread of the insect, Minnesotans are urged to use only local or certified heat treated firewood.

Materials provided by the Minnesota Department of Agriculture explain why:

  • While EAB only lives in ash trees, once firewood is cut it’s hard to tell if it’s ash or some other wood. Therefore, you may not know if there’s a potential to spread EAB if the firewood is moved.
  • Even if a pile of firewood has been seasoned for a year, there’s still a possibility it may be infested with emerald ash borer. The bug can live in cut firewood for up to two years. Certified, heat-treated firewood is kiln dried to kill any potential pests inside.
  • Anoka, Dakota, Fillmore, Hennepin, Houston, Olmsted, Ramsey, and Winona counties are under quarantine for EAB. That means it’s illegal to move firewood out of those counties without treatment under the permission of the Minnesota Department of Agriculture (MDA).

The department offers this advice for what individuals can do to protect Minnesota’s trees and ensure the emerald ash borer is not "hitching a ride":

  • When going on vacation, or heading to the cabin for the weekend, buy firewood near your destination, burn it there and don’t bring any back with you.
  • Look for heat treated firewood. This method is certified by the MDA and is known to kill any pests that may be living in the wood.