Beetle infestation killing trees in county parks

Rangers caution campers

against bringing firewood

County park rangers are asking campers not to bring firewood into campgrounds due to the gold-spotted oak borer that is killing tens of thousands trees in San Diego County.

The county does not want the infestation to spread.

Dos Picos Park in Ramona, one of three county parks struggling with the pests, sells firewood for campers in the park.

The gold-spotted oak borer is a brown flat-headed beetle with gold spots on its wings, smaller than a penny, and attacks Coast live oaks, Canyon live oaks and California black oaks.

“They dig in about one to two inches and ruin the transfer process so nutrients can’t get to branches,” said Park Ranger Roger Covalt.

Eventually the tree dies, he said, and may be cut for firewood, but the larva or little grubs in the wood live on for at least a couple of years. Taking infested firewood to a campground could be the death of more oak trees and the ruin of what was once a beautiful park, says the county.

Along with Dos Picos, William Heise near Julian and Louis Stelzer County Park in Lakeside have been affected. Park officials fear the beetle is also attacking trees at Volcan Mountain Open Space Preserve near Julian.

“The area of concern is that the borer will spread northward from Julian and make the jump to Palomar Mountain,” said County Entomologist Tracy Ellis. “As far as California goes, this pest is only found in San Diego County.”

The borer was discovered in 2006 along State Route 79 and Ellis believes it entered the county through firewood brought from Arizona.

Covalt, at William Heise County Park, said he sees the signs of the pest everywhere, from the browning at the crown of the tree to red stains on the trunk and the little D-shaped holes where the adult beetles bore their way out from the bark.

“If there are 25 exit holes, the tree is already a goner,” said Ellis.

The county asks campers to buy firewood where they burn it and not to take any back home. Ellis said some firewood is OK for the campgrounds, specifically avocado, citrus and eucalyptus, and commercial firewood without any bark, but check with campgrounds in the county beforehand. Some campgrounds are not allowing entry of firewood from other places and require campers to buy it at the campground, he said.

Covalt said Heise park is giving away its cut firewood but only to visitors who plan to burn it at the park.

   
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