Shoo Fly Shoo ~ Fly Pest Management at a Horse Facility

Before Molly left on her trip she commented to me that she thought the flies were less in Missouri then Oklahoma. I think she put a curse on that because last week a squadron of B-52’s came in to attack the horses. Of course, B-52’s are your Horse Fly, unmistakable in it’s size and it’s harassment of our equine friends.

Once a horse fly starts lands on your horse, slap it hard. It will fall to the ground dazed, not dead, so then you step on it. Your horse will thank you.

It always amazes me how horses understand this. When I was in Missouri last, Z took off like a crazy horse – even though she had just been let out to graze green grass and came running towards us. Husband and daughter ducked behind a porch post for protection but I came towards her and realized quickly it was a Horse Fly. Once she figured out we could swat them off of her, she became a bit of a pest herself, angling her butt over to hubby to get one taken care of.

Pony decided that was too much swatting and she would take care of her own horse flies, thank you very much.

Deer flies are another aggressive, biting fly that will drive your horse mad! They also carry infectious diseases to humans. Like Horse Flies they use sight and zero in on Carbon Dioxide (which our bodies naturally produce) to find their quarry.

To see a comparison of the shape and size of the Horse Fly to the Deer Fly you can check out this publication.

The worse fly situations I’ve experienced is when A.) my horses shared the area with cattle. Cattle attract a lot of nasty biting flies and B.) when there was no system in place to keep the barn clean of manure. Dealing with these two issues will eliminate a lot of your fly issues.

If you are a horse person you probably know all of the following that I’m going to tell you, but just in case….

1.) Clean up the manure and move it away from the area. My plan is to compost my manure and I’d love to buy those fly predators next year. In all the barns I’ve been at, the one with the most had no manure removal management plan. It was filthy and the flies loved it.

If you have your own place, all you have to do is advertise on Craigslist that you are giving away free manure (make sure it is in one central pile with easy drive access) and people with gardens will line up. To relieve aggravation to you, set a date and time for all pick ups to happen and encourage people to bring their shovels and buckets.

Pasture rotation will also help. Move the horses off land that is chock full of their poop to another grazing area. Either let the first plot start to break down and then spread with a tractor or collect the poop into a pile and then return the horses after a few weeks and go to work on the second plot.

If your paddock or pasture is small, plan on scooping it. I do and it makes a big difference in the flies, the available grass for the horses, and parasite loads in your horses.

In stalls, I prefer stall mats covered with pine shavings. Whatever you use, clean it OUT! Pick out stalls twice a day and you will again see a huge reduction in flies that are inside the barn.

2.) Fly masks and fly sheets provide protection without chemicals. This should be your first line of defense. A great time to buy them is at the end of summer if they go on sale. I’ve also been known to fix the fraying holes with my sewing machine.

3.) Having a fan in the barn where your horses can get in from the sun (these insects prefer sun) will help. The fan provides a breeze that discourages resting insects. Again, it’s a non-chemical defense. There’s a reason horses stand in the barn – it’s shady and the flies generally don’t like it.

4.) I’ve found that a brace of Vetrolin sponged over your horse can often discourage insects. It has a high menthol smell to it which I think insects find unpleasant. I know I’m probably crazy but this stuff smells like heaven in a bottle to me -love it’s wintergreen astringent smell!

I found this very effective for Tristan (applied about once a week or every four days) who was a flea-bitten gray and seemed to have less fly problems to begin with then the darker horses (chestnuts and bays); it was less effective on Z, who has a darker body coat.

5.) Everyone has their favorite fly spray. I think some of that favoritism is because what works against your local fly population may not be effective against mine. If something isn’t working for you SWITCH BRANDS! Don’t get trapped into brand loyalty. Also, the more expensive, generally the more effective. Sorry but cheap brands just don’t cut the mustard.

Some people crow about their homemade fly sprays. JMO but they are ineffective and greasy. Horse owners have also reported skin reactions to these homemade concoctions so do a small skin test first if you want to try them.

6.) If flies are getting your horses’ belly or chest, try using a fleece mitt to apply the fly spray more evenly over your horses’ body. I generally just keep the mitt with the fly spray bottle and if you worry about it collecting dirt put it in a gallon plastic baggie. There are also fly sheets that wrap under the horses’ belly.

7.) Use fly traps. I’ve actually found these extremely effective, low tech and a lot of bang for the buck. Yes, they smell disgusting but flies are disgusting so I would rather deal with a bit of stench and less flies if you know what I mean. I’ve used the Rescue! and the TrapNToss. These traps use smell to attract so are useful against the typical stable fly pest but not Horse flies or Deerflies.

Buy at the end or beginning of fly season when they are offering specials. Plan for at least one bag per every two weeks for a stable of two; or two bags for three-four weeks. Place them on the exterior edge of the barn, high enough a horse can’t reach it easily (though they generally are uninterested in them). If they can get some gentle breeze to move the bag it seems to help attract the flies.

I found these very effective when we were at FR where the flies had gotten out of control. Within two weeks my fly  problem decreased dramatically. I was using two of these bags on either side of the barn, scooping poop away from the paddock and run-in areas, was using stall mats with pine shavings, fly masks and fly spray about every three days.

Fly trap bag hanging on the left corner of barn

8.) You can use a large trap that mimics the mass of an animal, such as the Horse Pal or Epps Fly Trap designed in Oklahoma! For these guys to be effective they must be located freestanding in an open area. This gives the fly a clear visual.

The large price puts people off from this product, yet those who have sprung the money say they are effective against horse and deerflies. People have also tried making their own or from this plan, this pyramid design or this canopy tent with black ball. I’d build the bigger ones on a sledge so you can move them about easily. Look for a place in the sun, preferably higher then the rest of the area, not near doorways, entrances or human areas such as houses or picnic areas.

Try out some of these fly bait recipes; yeast which produces carbon dioxide might be very attractive to your Deerfly.

This is a long term solution for comfort without chemicals on your horse. If your horse has skin irritations to chemicals, or you are managing a large operation with many horses, I would put this down as a must-buy.

Possible methods but…

The lowest number of flies I ever experienced was when working at the Hell Barn. It had an indoor fly spray system to the barn and was extremely effective – it also dumped chemical on you and your horse at surprising intervals. The taste of fly-killing chemical in your mouth is pretty disgusting.

Just my experience but I’ve found Equi-Spot very effective against ticks but noticed no difference with flies.

Feed through Fly Control works if EVERY horse is taking it, that includes your neighbors if you have livestock next door.

People across the U.S. deal with biological environments quite different than mine. If you are near forests, lakes, marsh or swamp land etc… you will have your own unique insect issue. Identify the fly first – how does it hunt? and don’t give up.

One system of fly management doesn’t work. Usually a mufti-prong attack is better. Flies reproduce quickly so you must keep at it on a daily and weekly basis. I’ve also seen fly populations surge after a weather change so be prepared beforehand.

There is no magic solution to fly control – except consistent methods that are put into place before you see the flies.

This entry was posted in barn management. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s