MONTPELIER, Vt. (AP) -State crews are digging up and burning hundreds of hemlock trees that arrived in a nursery shipment found be infested with an insect that is ravaging hemlocks in eastern states.

“We’re getting there, we’re tracking them down,” said Scott Pfister, plant pathologist with the Agency of Agriculture.

The state has been searching for about 300 trees since the hemlock woolly adelgid was spotted on eastern hemlocks shipped to a wholesale nursery in White River Junction from Pennsylvania and North Carolina. About 400 trees had been immediately destroyed but the other 300 already had been dispersed to about 35 nurseries and landscapers around the state and sold to property owners from Bennington to Colchester.

“At this time we know of about 15 that have not been located,” Pfister said Tuesday.

Eleven of those missing trees were sold in Thetford, two in Rutland and one in Shelburne, he said.

State crews this week are working with landscapers and nurseries to dig up and remove the trees that have been located. They hope to recover all the potentially infested hemlocks by Friday.

The tiny bug, about the size of a pin head, attaches to the underside of the branches and sucks out the sap, killing the tree within a few seasons. The insect can be spotted by the white woolly mass it makes as protection. The small cotton-like tufts are found on small branches at the base of trees or underside of needles.

The insect, which was accidentally introduced from Asia in the 1920s, has infested native wild and artificial hemlocks in 11 eastern states, from North Carolina to Massachusetts.

, according to entomologists with the University of Vermont.

The insect is a threat to the state’s native hemlock stands. The state will monitor the areas where the hemlocks were planted for about five years to make sure no bugs are present.

The discovery is the biggest report of hemlock woolly adelgids in Vermont.

In 1990, a Stockbridge homeowner had brought in more than 100 seedlings from New Jersey that were infested. The state destroyed the trees and surveyed the area for seven years, said Brent Teillon, head of forest protection for the Department of Forests, Parks and Recreation.

Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine have quarantines on the pest. Nurseries and homeowners cannot import hemlocks unless they are inspected and free of adelgids.

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