The homelandNative to Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay, the ant was first described in New Orleans around 1891, most likely from a coffee shipment via the port of New Orleans. As of 2001, the ant was found in 21 different states and on every continent except Antarctica. In the U.S., it is found mostly in the Southeast and Southwest, as well as Hawaii, with that number most likely on the rise. Not just a pest in urban areas, it’s also a pest of agricultural crops by tending to and defending plant-feeding insects, such as aphids and whiteflies, which destroy plant materials when feeding.Keep’em outArgentine ants, like most other pest ants, come indoors in search of food, water or shelter. With the worker ants being less than a quarter of an inch long, a gap or crack the size of a pinhead is an open invitation for them to come inside. One of the first things to do in order to keep these pesky creatures from invading is to search for entry points. Search areas around windows and doors for cracks, crevices or gaps that could provide access into the home. Use caulking, weather-stripping or other physical control barriers to keep the ants outside. (Sealing cracks, crevices and gaps around doors and windows will not only keep the insects from entering, but will also keep hot or cold air from escaping your home, potentially leading to savings on monthly utility bills.)Another way to control them is with the use of chemicals. The use of slow-acting gel baits is optimal in controlling Argentine ants inside a home and can be purchased at local home improvement stores. Remove other foodsActive ingredients such as imidacloprid, fipronil, thiamethoxam and borax (sodium tetraborate decahydrate) are all acceptable. These ingredients work slowly enough to allow the ants to transfer the insecticide to other nest mates before dying, allowing the newly contaminated ants to transfer the poison to other ants until the problem is solved.In order for these baits to be efficient, all other food and water sources must be eliminated. The ants need to feed solely on the insecticide, which is usually sweetened with sugars, in order for control to occur. If other food or water sources remain, the ants may pass up the insecticide for the other available sources. In the event that the ants do not feed on the gel bait when other resources have been removed, either a different brand of bait or active ingredient should be used. If you can’t see visible entry points for the ants and the insecticides from local home improvement stores are not helping, a professional opinion may be needed. Contact your local pest control operator for a consultation and a thorough inspection of your property. After assessing the situation, the operator will be able to use chemicals restricted only to professionals to help mitigate your ant problem, inside or outside of the home. Regardless of the season, ants can become pests in any structure. The Argentine ant (Linepithema humile), or sugar ant, frequently invades homes in Georgia. The small brown ant, one-eighth of an inch to three-sixteenths of an inch long, will make its way inside after significant periods of rain, drought, heat or cold.
UW Athletic CommunicationsThe University of Wisconsin softball team (12-13, 3-1 Big Ten) will attempt to continue its hot conference start this weekend when it hosts Michigan and Northwestern at Goodman Diamond. Wisconsin will have its work cut out for it against the two conference powers. Michigan is ranked No. 1 in the country, and Northwestern is No. 20.The weekend will begin Friday night against the Wolverines, with the first game of a series that will conclude Saturday afternoon.Michigan (36-3, 3-1 Big Ten) brings in one of the nation’s top offenses, a unit that averages just a shade fewer than six runs a game. The Wolverines are hitting a gaudy .322 and have accumulated 50 more hits than the next Big Ten squad. However, the most impressive aspect of the Wolverine offense is their power — Michigan has swatted 55 home runs this season, far and away the most in the conference (Iowa is second with 40).Michigan has hit home runs in 35 of its 39 games this season, including 17 of its last 18. The most dangerous hitters in the line-up of sluggers are Jessica Merchant and Samantha Findlay, the top two RBI leaders in the Big Ten. Merchant is hitting .402 with 13 home runs and 36 RBI, all among the conference leaders, while Findlay is not far behind with a .320 batting average, 11 home runs and a team-high 37 RBI.Michigan’s pitchers have held up their end of the bargain as well, toting a conference-best 0.84 ERA. The tandem of Jennie Ritter and Lorilyn Wilson has been lights out for Michigan. Ritter is 16-0 with a 0.98 ERA and has pitched complete games in an astounding 15 of her 16 starts this year, eight of which were shutouts. Wilson is 15-2 with a 0.68 ERA and opponents have batted just .124 against her, good for best in the Big Ten.The Wolverines hold the all-time series edge between the two teams, winning 17 of 21 games against the Badgers.“[Michigan] can hit, they can run, they have the pitching, and they play great defense,” Wisconsin head coach Karen Gallagher said. “You mix that together, and you have a team that can compete for a national championship, and they deserve that No. 1 ranking. They have something like 50 or 60 home runs, and that is amazing. You better hope that your pitchers are on that day. You can’t make mistakes.”Wisconsin will then play a doubleheader against Northwestern Sunday. The Wildcats (22-9, 4-0 Big Ten), like Michigan, are a very complete team.Northwestern is hitting .284 as a team this season, fourth in the Big Ten. The trio of Garland Cooper, Jamie Dotson and Stephani Churchwell key the Wildcat offensive attack. Cooper is hitting a team-high .425 with six home runs and 25 RBI. Dotson is the Big Ten’s second-best run producer with 36 RBI, and is batting .363 with six homers, while Churchwell is hitting .361 in her own right. Junior Kristen Amegin has provided additional power for the Wildcats, blasting a team high nine home runs on the year.Northwestern also shines in the field, second to only Michigan in the conference in team ERA (1.27). Eileen Canney and Courtney Foster share the pitching load and have both enjoyed successful starts to the season. Canney is 12-4 with a 1.08 ERA and three shutouts, while Foster is 10-4 with a 1.25 ERA.The Wildcats are also the best fielding team in the conference with a .972 fielding percentage, and have only committed 24 errors in 31 games this season.“Strong defense, strong pitching and strong hitting,” Gallagher said. “Those are the keys to success. [Northwestern has] some fine hitters, but they are beatable, and we have had some success against them in the past. We have to play our best ball though.”Wisconsin will look to remain near the top of the conference, and wins against two of the top teams in the conference would go a long way toward improving on last season’s 10th-place Big Ten finish.“We have to compete with the mindset that we can stay with these guys and even more know we can beat them,” Gallagher said. “We are capable of beating these teams, but we can’t have breakdowns.”