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Fly Control

Flies and Mosquitoes

   Flies and Mosquitoes are not just nuisances! They spread diseases from minor to life-threatening, and driving some horses crazier than others, even to the point of flared hooves and cracks from incessant stomping in place by more sensitive horses. Somehow it seems those horses with the thinnest, least durable hoof walls (read thoroughbreds and any high-strung individual of any breeding) are the most apt to be bothered to that point. I often wonder if it's the fact that thin skin equals thin hooves (they are just modified skin cells) and easier meals for flies. Just a theory.
At any rate, no one wants flies and mosquitoes nibbling on their horses (or themselves!). Here are a few options in the war on flying insects!


For chemical free control, try Fly Predators. They are small insects that you set free where manure tends to gather and these bugs eat the baby flies, but don't bother animals. They can't completely eliminate all flies, but they do make a dent in populations! The drawback is that the same premise spray you use to kill flies will kill them, as well. So better to stick with body spray on your horses (watch the wind with those so it doesn't carry to your predator feeding area), or use all natural repellents instead.

You can try building bat houses for Mosquito Control. They work really well, and don't cost anything beyond the bat house. You can call your local Wildlife office to request bats that need to be relocated if that is available in your area or for tips on building and placing bat houses. Simply putting up the bat houses usually will draw them in if you put them in sunny locations (facing south and east to catch morning sun as bats crave the warmth). If you build it, they will come, as long as you have the skeeters to be eaten, and patience. Putting them up after April tends to lessen the population that will roost there, until next year at least.  Free skeeter control is awesome!

Natural repellents would include garlic, apple cider vinegar, citronella and other herbs that I'm sure I don't know about. Most of them are made from edible ingredients, completely safe, but not as effective as chemical versions. I sometimes dilute my expensive chemical bug spray with the vinegar to cut costs. The garlic and apple cider vinegar can be fed to your horse to make him less appetizing to flies. There's no hard evidence they work, just anecdotal, but it doesn't harm them any if you want to try. The ACV is good for arthritic horses as supplement. If it repelled flies, that would be a great "side-effect".


Of course, there are the usual chemicals available. I find that like most chemical warfare, the bugs eventually begin to resist whatever you use over time. So, like wormer, one should rotate the fly spray chemicals. Probably your best bet is to only use them when really needed (when you are riding and you need as few distractions as possible). Wipes are probably actually better, as there is no over-spray. Over-spray in the air may contribute to flies becoming resistant to the chemical as they fly through the cloud and may not get enough to kill, but their offspring resist later on. Wipes have their flaws, too. They don't distribute as evenly, take longer and are messier.


Fly sheets, screens, masks, leg wraps, etc. All create breathable, physical barriers from biting insects. You don't have to worry about inscets building resistance to them, they won't harm children or pets, either. They initially cost more, but over a season, I think it's cheaper. They don't wear off as a horse sweats. However, they can come off, rip, and aren't always practical for riding, so sprays and wipes will still be needed. However, for turnout, they are a good idea. They work.


Flies and mosquitoes are dumb. For flies, any trap will work. From plastic bags with a cap and some stinky water, to recycled milk jugs with some old meat tossed in to attract them, they are easily caught. there are sticky traps that use pheromones to catch them, and they work as well. Using fly traps will help reduce the population. Mosquito dunks are great to put wherever you have standing water, as are goldfish in stock tanks-they eat the larvae before they can become mosquitoes. The trick with traps is to put the stink bait near manure piles (so you won't notice the stench, but these work best!) and the sticky tape out of reach of horses and kids, but where odor may be more of an issue. The sticky tapes don't usually stink. Also, put them out before you see adult flies in the spring. If you catch the first emerging adults, that will reduce your seasonal population. One adult could produce thousands of offspring. If you catch them before they breed, you are ahead of the game. Same with fly predators. The sooner you start them in the season, the easier it is for you the rest of the year.

   Clean up manure and compost it. Composting kills bugs and germs and makes rich fertilizier. Clean up spilled feed, don't leave cat food out all the time and try to dump standing water and keep junk picked up that might collect standing water.  Add a few box fans in the barn. Flies don't navigate well in high wind speeds, so a box fan will keep flies away! Great if you have the farrier out, to have a fan on the horse and keep fly spray off the farrier's hands (oily sprays gunk up my gloves and make it harder to hold horse's legs in my knees, plus, it's HOT under there, so a fan is nice anyways!)

  Good luck with your fly control and happy trails!