Those pesky flies! No one likes flies, but they're inevitable around a barn. Or are they? Some equestrian facilities seem free of flies, while other places resemble Egypt during the plagues. What's the secret for good fly control around horses? These five tips will help you keep flies to a minimum and make your barn more pleasant for both you and your horses this year.
Fly Control Tip 1: Know Your Flies
Not all flies are created equal. Tabanids (deer flies and horse flies) bite horses and suck blood to feed their larvae, producing painful welts on horses. Their bite is also painful to people; if you've ever been bitten through your jeans or riding breeches, you'll know exactly what I mean! Most tabanids don't like to enter buildings, but prefer wooded areas and the edges of woods and fields. Stabling horses indoors during peak horse and deer fly season can reduce bites. Other types of biting insects prefer different habitats. Knowing the types of flies and biting insects in your area can help you plan a course of action to minimize bites and reduce their numbers. Talk to your local agricultural extension agent for advice on identifying and treating specific pests in your area. The Oklahoma Cooperative Extension service offers a free online tip sheet to identify and control various flies.
Fly Control Tip 2: Pick Up Manure
Certain kinds of flies like to lay their eggs in manure and hay or straw piles. Does that sound familiar? It sounds a lot like the manure pile at your barn, doesn't it? Manure piles are like fly breeding magnets. Schedule regular manure pile removal as well, especially during the warmer summer months when flies are at their peak. During peak fly season, it also helps to walk around the pasture and riding ring with a wheel barrow and pitchfork and pick up smaller manure piles. This reduces the number of separate breeding areas for flies and keeps flies down inside the arena or turn out area.
Fly Control Tip 3: Add Fly Parasite Predators to Manure Piles
Fly parasite predators are burrowing nematodes that when added to manure piles destroy fly maggots and pupae. When added to a manure pile, they keep fly populations in check by disrupting fly breeding cycles. During warm weather, they reproduce every week or so; once added to the manure pile, you may not have to add any more during fly season. Fly parasite predators will not harm the environment, don't harm songbirds or other insects, and do not harm people. You can find them online through biological supply houses.
Fly Control Tip 4: Wipe on Insect Repellent
Wiping on insect repellent, rather than spraying it on horses, provides greater coverage and longer-lasting action on your horse. Pour a little repellent onto a clean rag and wipe your horse's legs and belly with an equine-safe insect repellent before turning him out or before your ride.
Should you use natural repellents or synthetic ones? Both offer advantages and disadvantages. Many horsemen swear that a little apple cider vinegar, added to their horse's feed or water, reduces the number of flies visiting a horse. Others make a wipe of vinegar and water for their horses. Whatever you do, use common sense. Follow package directions for commercial insecticides and consult your horse's veterinarian before making changes to his feed or water.
Fly Control Tip 5: Use Insecticide Misters Inside Barns
Some types of flies, such as stable flies, actually land on vertical surfaces. Barn misters or sprayers that provide a steady, regular burst of spray reaching walls can reduce the number of stable flies landing near your horses. Fly tapes or traps can also reduce the number of flies by capturing them before they have a chance to multiply.
Flies are a perpetual challenge for stable managers and horse lovers alike. Fortunately, there are certain steps you can take to reduce the number of pesky flies bothering your horses and you during your rides.
PHOTO CREDIT: Jade, Morguefile.com
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