Get a head start on good habits to prepare for upcoming fly season
Did you know a female fly can lay up to 900 eggs? When you see flies buzzing around the barn, you’ve waited too long to begin thinking about how to control them. An early bug prevention program is what’s needed to keep your horse comfortable and your barn and pastures free from nagging flies and biting insects.
Often the simple release of fly predators, plus modest improvements in manure management and a few fly traps are all that will be needed. Follow that up with your natural bug sprays and herbal remedies and you’ll be fly free.
Here are a few tips on putting your fly program all together:
1. Fly control starts with manure management . Daily removal of manure does not necessarily accomplish the goal of fly management. If the manure becomes infested with larvae, it is still a potential source for fly development. Spread it, compost it or cover it. Temporarily placing fresh manure beneath a tarp and securing the edges with soil has been shown to be partially effective in killing developing larvae.
2. Control moisture . Insects are drawn to wet areas. It is imperative to be diligent about keeping stalls clean and dry and to provide proper air circulation. Spring is a perfect time to repair leaking pipes, faucets, hoses and automatic watering systems. Eliminate standing water in pens and pastures, spring clean each stall to eliminate wet spots and sanitize old mats.
3. Clean up and neaten up . Scrub feed tubs and water buckets daily. Good sanitation practices can significantly discourage fly development and keep odors at a minimum. Flies love garbage, rotting fruit, loose damp hay, manure and old pet food containers. Stay on top of your daily barn chores by keeping garbage cans covered, and by periodically washing down the sides of your stalls and run-in sheds.
4. Build up your horse’s natural defenses . Flax oil, minerals and plant extracts that are digested and pass through the skin to create a protective shield which lasts all day will help your horse’s body deal with flies from the inside out. Garlic has been used traditionally in this role. Diatomaceous earth (food grade only!), grape seed extract and cider vinegar are also believed to do the same thing when added to your horse’s drinking water or grain.
5. Use fly predators . These little insects are very helpful in reducing the number of flies on your property. The key is to use them correctly and to have your first order shipped early enough in the season. The parasites use the fly pupa (cocoon) as a host, killing developing flies so they never hatch, preventing new generations from maturing.
6. Bait the pests . Many different traps are available for different species of flies but no one trap will catch them all. Most traps use nonpoisonous attractants in water to draw in the flies. So hang them in the barn? Nope, it is better to set the traps close to fly breeding sites near the ground in sunny areas. Your feed store is a good resource for the traps that work in your area.
7. Get your last line of defense ready. Prepare your natural bug sprays in advance (see recipe below) and have your fly masks and sheets cleaned, repaired and ready to use before you need them.
Natural Fly Control Recipe , Courtesy of Mary Ann Simonds
1/2 oz Lavender
8 oz Aloe Vera lotion
1/8 oz Rosemary
8 oz Water
Plan now and you’ll be happy you did!