Barn Fly Control Strategies and Tips

Jul 30, 2019

Whatever area you’re in and whatever discipline you ride, whatever breed of horse you have and whatever management system you use, one pest plagues all horse people: flies. These nasty critters can cause disease and discomfort to both horses and their people, and they can be almost impossible to control. Here are some useful ways in which to reduce your fly problem. And admit it, you have one. All barns do!

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Why Are Flies a Problem?

Stable flies are the most common to have around horses. Similar in appearance to the house fly, they have one major difference: they bite. The female stable fly needs to engorge itself with blood before it can lay its eggs, after which it generally will die. The eggs hatch out into dreadful little maggots, which then eventually develop into adult flies and continue the cycle of being either disgusting or very annoying. Maggots generally develop in areas with rotting or putrefying organic material. Manure is a special favourite of theirs, so don’t be surprised if you crack open a badly managed muck heap and find it infested with wriggling worms.

The adult flies, however, are generally the biggest problem for horses. Their bites are only mildly painful and generally not serious, but they may be vectors of some diseases, and for the horse’s sensitive skin constant biting becomes hugely irritating. Some horses become agitated and can lose condition from permanently kicking and biting at the flies; others, particularly those standing on hard ground, can damage their feet from constant stamping. In the worst case scenario, your horse could even be allergic to the flies’ bites. This would cause them to break out in hives: an incredible itchy skin rash that looks like your horse is covered in bumps.

Flies also contribute to the spread of diseases. Even when the disease is not transmitted by their bites, it can be transmitted by contact with their feet. Strangles, equine flu, and equine herpes virus are only some of the diseases that can be transmitted in this manner.

Tips for Controlling Flies

Controlling the Breeding Ground: The first step in controlling adult flies is preventing them from ever becoming adults by killing off maggots or limiting their breeding areas. Standard stable hygiene will go a long way towards this by limiting the amount of rotting material lying around for them to feast on. Keep feed bins washed and stables well mucked out; sweep out your yard every day. Good manure management is essential. Don’t allow muck heaps to stand for too long and also don’t keep them too close to the stables themselves – this could be a fire risk, too. There are also supplements on the market that you can feed your horses that makes their manure unsuitable for maggots to feed on.

Use Traps: There are a variety of fly traps on the market that can reduce the incidence of flies. Place these away from the stables, as these traps lure flies towards them. Some, like this one, zap the bugs as they fly into them; they’re noisy and unpleasant, but the bugs end up pretty dead. Others use a fan system to suck the flies in and are much quieter. Perhaps the most effective – if really gross – are simple strips of sticky material that the flies get stuck to; these have the advantage of not using poison – the flies just buzz themselves to death. Which is kind of horrible, but so are they.

 

Introduce a Natural Predator: Recently, some companies have started selling parasitic wasps. These wasps are not dangerous to humans, but they lay their eggs in fly pupae, preventing them from developing into adults. This is an all-natural method that can prove expensive – but also extremely effective. Otherwise, a cheaper way of getting hold of a natural predator is to go out and buy yourself a cute batch of chickens. These wonderful little creatures will literally peck the flies off your horse’s legs, and usually get along great with horses. They don’t do well with some breeds of dog, however, and can be a bit messy.

Control Flies on the Horse: There is a myriad of different ways to keep bugs off your horses, and these are all the last line of defence – it’s best to try and stop flies from breeding so prolifically in the first place. But you’re never going to get rid of all of the flies on your yard, so it’s prudent to employ various methods of keeping that last tenacious handful away from your equine friends.

Flies are especially fond of sitting on your horse’s face, feeding on his tears and other secretions from his eyes. They can cause and spread horrible infections in your horse’s eyes, as well as being extremely irritating. Use a fly mask to keep them away from his face, and a fly sheet to keep them off his body for good measure.

Finally, grab a big bottle of fly spray to apply twice a day – once when he goes out to the field and once more at dusk – and whenever you ride or work with him. Fly sprays aren’t perfect and usually don’t last very long, but they can make a ride or grooming session far more tolerable and just give your horse a few hours of peace out in the field.

Conclusion

Flies are a problematic pest that spread disease and cause discomfort to your horse. However, they can be controlled using a holistic approach that targets them at every stage of their lifestyle. Speak to your local feed merchant to learn more about products that are available in your area.

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