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Take Steps to Control Flies Around Your Horses

Take Steps to Control Flies Around Your Horses

“Adult female flies will lay 100-150 eggs in any decaying matter they come across, like garbage and human and animal waste. These eggs hatch in roughly 7½ hours when the temperatures are high (99F) or longer if the weather is colder. ”

If your horse is doing his own rendition of “Shoo, Fly! Don’t Bother Me!” and it’s not working, it’s time to break out some more serious any-test techniques. It is summertime, and warmer weather tends to awaken the insect world, bringing out those armies of flies who seemingly have one mission: find someone to annoy and pester all season-long. Those pesky winged insects are attracted to and feed on anything rotting, spoiled, or decaying. (They also think dung is a great meal/breeding ground.) For all of these reasons, flies are a particular nuisance to horses and are bound to be present in any barn or stable.

Midge flies, stable flies, houseflies, deerflies, and—yes—horseflies all have one thing in common: they really like horses. The good news is there are ways to help limit the number of fly incidents around your stable. Horse owners can apply several strategies and products to help protect their equine friends during the warmer months of the year.

View Infographic: Flies, More Than Pests >>

Get the Jump on Flies

In limiting the fly problem, a good first step is to arm yourself with some general knowledge about their biology. Flies can only ingest liquid food; so to consume solids, they squirt saliva on top of it and then suck that up via their proboscis, a body part that acts like a straw. They drink a great deal of water to keep salivating and will drink wherever they find it: in ponds, troughs, rain-filled containers, etc. (Some species can even breed in standing water.)

Flies reproduce at a fast and furious rate. Adult females lay 100-150 eggs on any decaying matter they come across, such as garbage and fecal waste. The eggs hatch in roughly 7½ hours when temperatures are high (99 degrees Fahrenheit) and a little longer when the weather is cooler. From the eggs emerge worm-like creatures called maggots, which feed wherever they reside and then change into larvae. The larvae eventually transform into pupa and re-emerge as adult flies. Adults mate within a day or two from exiting their pupa state and the process (which in total constitutes one to three weeks) begins anew.

Unfortunately, flies have a particular affinity for horse manure, presenting serious challenges for fly control in stables and barns. If the fly that lands on your horse has just come from a feast in a nearby garbage can or manure pile, whatever germs it acquired will be deposited at that spot. Flies also regurgitate and excrete wherever they come to rest. So those tiny specks that are actually their fecal matter. 

A Fly’s Bite Is Really Bad

Flies irritate horses by biting around the ears and face and also the forelegs, stomach, neck, and mane. There, they can find more skin here and feed on the blood from bites. Bites can be especially painful, and they’ll continue to bite as long as they have the strength, and an infection with oozing, itchy areas on your horse. As you can imagine, this is a miserable, vexing problem for your four-legged friend.

Vetericyn Equine Wound & Skin Care >>

Attack Flies at the Source

Horse owners should devise a consistent plan to help keep flies from biting their horses.

  • Get rid of potential breeding grounds. Don’t let water stand in open containers where it will be stagnant. (Continuous flow waterers can help solve this problem.) Muck out dirty straw bedding frequently, too, because stable flies will swarm this area looking for a home and free lunch. (Wood shavings and sawdust do not attract flies as much.)
  • Clean out dung from your stables and grazing areas on a regular—as in, daily—basis. It’s a big project requiring a great deal of diligence, but it can help a great deal in  reducing swarms.
  • Install fans in stables and outside yards. Flies have difficulty maneuvering in strong winds, whether manmade or natural.
  • Some fly types love to inhabit wooded areas, so try to keep grazing horses away from tree-lined spaces.
  • Generously apply and reapply fly sprays and insect repellents all over your horse. Your veterinarian can recommend some good products, and check out a few of our products below.
  • Spray stables with insecticide to remove threats from indoor flies. Be sure to consult with a veterinarian about what to use and keep horses safe and unaffected by a potential skin or respiratory irritant.
  • Add some good, old-fashioned fly strips, flaps, bug zappers, and the like in stables and yards. They are cheap, easily replaced, and help eliminate more flies in the area.
  • Many flies prefer daylight and disappear at night. If your horse is becoming a fly victim, keep them inside the stable during the day and let them out at night to avoid prime fly time.
  • The old adage about safety in numbers rings true. A group of horses can defend each other by using their tails as giant fly swatters.
  • A good fly elimination plan could have your horse singing a whole new tune this spring and summer. Put your best plan forward to insure your equine friends enjoy a reasonably fly-free season.

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