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State declares insect a public nuisance

An insect threatening the state's 76 million hemlock trees has been declared a public nuisance.

The move will allow state officials to seek government and private grants to fight the hemlock woolly adelgid, according to a news release from the state Energy and Environment Cabinet.

Cabinet Secretary Len Peters made the declaration, according to a release issued Wednesday.

The state is trying to get $15,000 grant from Toyota that will be used to fight the insect, said Lynn True, spokeswoman for the state Division of Forestry.

Natural predators help keep the tiny adelgid in check in its native Asia, but that's not the case in the U.S., where the bug showed up in the 1950s. The adelgid feeds on the hemlock's needles and kills the tree.

It has invaded at least 17 states and decimated hemlock stands in some places, hurting the ecosystem.

Adelgid infestations have been found in at least 15 Kentucky counties — mostly in Eastern Kentucky — since first being spotted in Harlan County in 2006.

The state is using pesticide and predator beetles to fight the pest.