Kentucky Office of the State Entomologist

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History of the Office of the State Entomologist

It is now known that the majority of serious insect pests that occur in the United States are of foreign origin. About 90% of these introduced pests have come in on shipments of plants, seeds or plant products. Many pests had already gained entrance before any cooperative or legal action could be taken to curb the introduction and spread of foreign pests, because there was as yet an insufficient body of organized professional entomologists to deal with the problem. The establishment of land-grant colleges by the enactment of the Morrill Act in the 1860's, and the establishment of State experiment stations by enactment of the Hatch Act in 1887 gave impetus to the emergence of economic entomology as a scientific profession. Entomologists were among the first to be hired by experiment stations, and they worked more or less independently to solve their state's insect problems. However, an awareness grew of the threat from introduced insect pests. Agricultural interests in California had already become alarmed by this threat because of the number of such pests in their state, and the California State Legislature enacted laws in 1881 to prevent the introduction of plant pests. During the next 15 years several other states followed suit with legislation, commonly referred to as nursery laws, primarily because of the seriousness of the San Jose scale which was spreading rapidly throughout the country. States differed greatly in their legislation and methods for how to deal with the problem, so in 1897, S. A. Forbes, the Illinois State Entomologist, called a meeting of official entomologists from surrounding states to discuss this new pest and means of alleviating it. The group at this meeting felt that both state and federal legislation was imperative, and endorsed a call for a national convention.

Two years later, in 1899, Forbes again sent a circular letter to appropriate officers in surrounding states to further discuss nursery inspection. The letter said in part, "The recent passage by the state legislatures of Illinois and Indiana of laws requiring inspection of nursery stock with reference to injurious insects and fungus diseases leads me to suggest the desirability of a conference among inspectors of a number of adjacent states with a view to establishing common methods, discussing objects of inspection, forms of certificates and other matters of common interest on which it would be well to have an exact understanding." At this meeting a memorandum of understanding was drafted that contained a number of policy positions that are still evident in plant certification.

Also in 1889, through the efforts of C. V. Riley, who was then associated with the USDA, the American Association of Economic Entomologists (later to become the Entomological Society of America) was formed to promote the interchange of knowledge among persons actively engaged in economic entomology. Active membership in this organization was at first limited to entomologists in Federal and State governments or Experiment Stations of the United States and Canada, but was later opened to teachers of economic entomology in colleges and universities.

Inconsistencies and divergences in the administration of state laws and acceptance of other states certificates still existed, however, and this led to another regional meeting called by Forbes in January 1901. It was at this meeting that this group decided to organize as a society of official horticulture inspectors. This led to the establishment of the American Association of Horticultural Inspectors, which held its first meeting in Washington, D. C. in November 1901. Twenty-three persons were in attendance representing states in the eastern, central and southern regions and the USDA. In 1913, the American Association of Horticultural Inspectors became affiliated with the American Association of Economic Entomologists, and in 1916 became the Horticultural Inspection section of the American Association of Economic Entomologists.

Meanwhile in 1905, the Federal Insect Pest Act was passed to regulate the entry and interstate movement of injurious insects. It soon became evident that some pests are not readily detected by visual inspections, so in 1912, the Plant Quarantine Act was passed to regulate the entry and interstate movement of known carriers of insect pests and diseases. Over the years, eradication and other types of programs were added to federal plant protection laws.

Also over the years, individual states have made organizational revisions for administrating nursery laws. Initially nursery laws were administered by state entomologists associated with the Experiment Stations of the Land Grant Agricultural Colleges. At the time, that was where the bulk of the economic entomologist resided. Later on when trained entomologists were available for governmental positions in the states, the position of state entomologist began to shift into the state departments of agriculture or departments of natural resources. With these shifts in administrational organization, there was also a shift in philosophy and purpose of nursery laws. Some states have gone beyond the phytosanitary aspects in their nursery laws, and have incorporated consumer protection regulations. For instance, some states may require that nursery stock offered for sale be labeled with a scientific name and instructions to the buyer for maintaining the stock, or that it be certified as being winter hardy in the region where it is being sold. These and other regulation may have little to do with curtailing the spread of dangerous insects and diseases, although they are laudable as good practices for enhancing the image and reputation of the nursery industry. Undoubtedly, some of these laws were introduced through lobbying efforts of the nursery industry itself.

Kentucky's Office of the State Entomologist State Law Timeline:
1897: Kentucky Statute 1925a-1 through 1925a-7 was enacted; titled: Fruit Trees, Diseased and created Kentucky's Office of the State Entomologist
1926: Kentucky Statutes, 1925a-1 through 1925a-11 titled: Fruit Trees, Diseased was enacted.
1942: The statutes were recodified and are now known as the Kentucky Revised Statutes (KRS). Chapter 249 of the Kentucky Revised Statutes now regulates what our office does relating to the inspection of nurseries and other plant growing businesses; licensing of growers, dealers and agents of plants; the control or eradication of newly introduced plant pests; and the pro-mulgation of plant pest quarantines.
1978: Revisions were made to remove language regarding black knot.
1996: Revisions were made through out sections .010 - .105 and .990 of KRS Chapter 249; including, for the first time since 1897, the raising of the licensing fee for nurseries and nursery dealers.
Online: Chapter 249 of the Kentucky Revised Statutes

Page last updated: December 23, 2020

Kentucky Office of the State Entomologist