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Protect your horse from flies this summer

Good barn management is key to reducing annoying insect populations.

By From College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences, Texas A&M University | 16-Jul-11

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Flies on a foalShoo fly, don’t bother me! Summer time is prime time for increased numbers of various types of flies that can irritate your horse and you. Put away that fly swatter because there are better measures that can be taken to limit the number of flies.

“Stable flies, horse flies, black flies, deer flies, sand flies and biting midge flies --- so many flies. They all can bite your horse, draw blood and possibly cause allergic reactions,” notes Dr. Glennon Mays, clinical associate professor at the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences.

“Flies will probably not be completely eliminated from your horse stable,” states Mays. “But, there are control measures that can be put in place to decrease the fly population in your horse facilities. Since stable flies are one of the most common summer pests your horse will encounter, I’ll focus on this fly.”

Stable flies feed on the blood of warm blooded animals, explains Mays. They pierce the skin with their mouth parts, lacerate the skin and then inject saliva which contains an anticoagulant that keeps the blood flowing. The bite can be painful and irritating. Depending on your horse’s skin sensitivity, there could also be a reaction to the bite. Stable flies usually feed during the early morning hours and again in the late afternoon. They also feed selectively preferring the legs and belly to other areas of your horse’s body.

“The female stable fly requires blood meals to produce viable eggs and surprisingly, eggs are deposited in decaying animal and plant waste, generally not in fresh manure,” notes Mays. “Fly larvae can develop in stable waste that is a combination of damp straw and manure, or under hay bales that are in contact with moist soil. In the warm summer, the entire life cycle from egg to adult can be completed in three to six weeks.”

The hot summer temperatures promote increased fly numbers, but sound sanitation practices in conjunction with other controls can decrease fly populations, says Mays. Reduce larvae development by eliminating the environment where they can develop. Spread manure and stable bedding regularly so that it will dry out fast as possible. Modify drainage areas so that excess water is eliminated.

When stable flies finish feeding, they seek a place to rest and digest their blood meal. This instinctive habit makes way for control of adult flies with residual insecticides sprayed on stable surfaces, explains Mays. Sides of buildings (inside and outside), stall surfaces and fences are all areas where flies can be found resting. Residual insecticides can provide fly control over a period of time. Be sure to follow label recommendations for use, mixing and spraying.

“Sprays and dusts may be used to protect your horse, but these usually have short residual effect,” notes Mays. “Repellents containing DEET are better suited for mosquitoes rather than flies.”

The number of flies produced by a pair of stable flies and their offspring in the summer months is in the millions. Therefore, it is best to establish good fly control practices. A sound sanitation program is the first step needed to decrease stable fly populations at your horse facilities.

“It will take a combination of controls to decrease stable fly numbers. You need to implement measures to decrease fly breeding and larvae hatching. Any stable flies that make it through these stages should be chemically controlled with residual insecticides and direct animal applications,” explains Mays.

Knowledge of some basic stable fly facts in addition to good stable management practices will help you to have a winning chance against the pesky stable fly.

Further Reading
Shoo Fly
Fly Control

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Reader Comments

Anne    Clinton, TN

7/17/2011 11:19:29 AM

This is my fourth year using the fly predators/wasps and I would never go back to any of the previous methods of fly control. With an added equine plus the goats, sheep, pigs, chickens and more pasture, I have had to increase my monthly supply. The added cost has been well worth it!

Kilee Shoulders    Sioux City, IA

7/17/2011 10:39:51 AM

Yes, theses pesty flies really are very irriateing. This summer i put on my horse (endurnce fly spray) on my horse. I put on (off spray)so me and my horses are so crazy about
FLIES! but when going for a ride it`s all good becase of flie spray.thanks horse channel you ROCK!.

Pat    Great Falls, MT

7/16/2011 11:18:28 PM

Keeping the horse area clean and free of manure is your basic fly reduction plan. It's the best one too. It also eliminates the transfer of worms and other undesireable's. Deet/Camomeal/Avon Skin So Soft mixed in water also works pretty good. One thing I have found out too, GiddyUp Girl, Be Ready spray is wonderful. Not only does it smell terrific and ok to use it on yourself as well as the horses but you can see the bugs, be it mosqts/flys, fall off dead as soon as you spray it.
Suprisingly, a 4 oz bottle goes a long way, even with three horses.

Still, clean barn areas are the most important. If you have a manure pile, make sure it's far enough away from horse's that it's worth your time of hauling the manure there!

Galadriel    Lothlorien, ME

7/16/2011 7:00:53 PM

This is the first year I've had a problem with horse flies. Those nasty buggers! I wish I could get rid of them for good.

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