Bug Off! Tips to Improve Your Fly Control Program

In part one of this series we discussed identifying your local pests, and controlling them using their natural predators. In this installment we discuss trapping pests and keeping them off your horses.In part one of this series we discussed identifying your local pests, and controlling them using their natural predators. In this installment we discuss trapping pests and keeping them off your horses.

Story originally posted by: By: Christina Keim

In part one of this series we discussed identifying your local pests, and controlling them using their natural predators. In this installment we discuss trapping pests and keeping them off your horses.

Trap Your Flies for Fun and Pleasure
Traps are a helpful adjunct to other pest management techniques, but should not be relied on exclusively. They work best in smaller, enclosed areas, and are usually species-specific. Baited traps can attract house and stable flies, which are drawn into an inescapable chamber by the scent of an attractant like sugary food or manure. Tape and glue traps are covered with sticky, aromatic glue. House and stable flies are attracted and soon find themselves adhered to the strips. These strips quickly become dusty and need
to be replaced often.

Baitless traps rely on the fact that horseflies are attracted to dark objects. A large round black ball attracts flies to land on it; when they do, they crawl upward to the top of the sphere. When they discover nothing to eat, they fly further up and into the netting that forms a cone above the ball. A clear space at the top of the cone further attracts the flies to climb upward, until they are trapped in the collection chamber.

The ever-popular bug zappers are a sure sign of summer. Their use around horse farms should be limited, however, due to the risk of electrical problems connected with an ungrounded wire. These zappers kill beneficial bugs as well as the pests. They also can pose a fire hazard when large numbers of flammable dried bodies begin to build up on the blue lights.

Bar the Door
Another highly effective way to reduce your pest population is to eliminate routes that provide access to your barn. Covering windows with screens, either of plastic or wire mesh, can help keep out many flying pests. Some manufacturers even design custom screens to fit across stable doors. A similar alternative is the use of hanging strips of heavy material like burlap across doorways. Horses often need to be trained to cross this
border, but once they do so it provides an easy blockade to the admittance of pests. Fabric strips or sheets can also be hung across openings to run-in sheds, providing pastured animals some relief from the bugs.

Fans, properly rigged and secured so as to not pose a fire hazard, can help keep barn air circulating. Biting flies are attracted to the carbon dioxide that horses and other animals breathe out; keeping fresh air moving will help prevent the gas from building up around horses. Secondly, most flies prefer to cruise around in still air; a continuous breeze in the barn will deter them from this flight route.

Caulk all cracks and crevices, especially window casings, for spots where insects can sneak through. Caulk all knot holes and other potential entrances. Inspect the weather stripping around doors as well and replace any torn or missing rubber.

Lights attract night-flying insects, so try to limit the use of spotlights around your barn and turn off any unnecessary interior lights as well. Yellow-tinted light bulbs or sodium-vapor lamps attract fewer insects than white lights. Use motion-sensor lights as spotlights to provide security for your barn while reducing the attraction to insects.

On the Horse Protection
Finally, dress your horse for the fierce world of insects. There are a number of items on the market, from fly masks to sheets to tail strips, which can be used to prevent biting flies from reaching your horse. Light-colored sheets also help to deflect those flies that prefer dark colors.

Many biting flies are most active in the daylight, so stabling your horse during these hours can help protect from these pests. Try turning out at different times of the day to gauge when pest activity is lowest in your area.

Many effective commercial repellents are on the market. Some contain pyrethroids, synthetic chemicals that tend to be mixed with other substances. "Natural" or herbal repellents often include essential oils like cedar, neem seed, eucalyptus, and lavender. Tea tree oil shampoos reportedly have fly-repellent properties. No matter what type of repellent you use, be sure to check your horse for sensitivity.

Citronella is a popular additive to repellents. There are some well known repellent effects, but unfortunately they are short lived. Citronella can also be irritating to the eyes, and should not be used on mares that have foals by their sides. If the foal rubs up against the mare, the results can be painful.

Anyone who is using a flying predator may be doing them a disservice by also applying repellents to their horse, since these toxins can kill the beneficials as well. New on the market within the past few years are fly strips for the legs. These are worn around the horse’s cannons somewhat like sweatbands, and slowly release repellent over time. If applied to the front legs, these bands can help protect the face as the horse grazes. Many users claim that their horses enjoy significant relief from these strips.

For the conscientious horse owner, fly control should be more than just a few squirts of repellent and off you go. A multi-pronged strategy that includes reducing or eliminating breeding areas and access points, and increasing protection, barriers and predators, can help keep your horse farm pest-free.