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Flies & Fly Control Practices

Flies are considered the biggest nuisance pests for horses. Horse flies and stable flies plus mosquitoes, which can carry West Nile Virus (WNV) are blood feeders. Let's not forget bot flies which are gastro-intestinal parasites. Battling flies is constant for horse owners. The fly season lasts from early spring through late fall and depending on your area can even encroach into the early winter months. To maintain the health of your horse, it's important to have a comprehensive fly control program in place.

More About Flies
All flies have the same life stages that include egg, larva, pupa and adult. The adult stage is the "pest stage" for most flies with the exception of the bot fly where the larva is the pest stage. Let's take a quick look at the various types of flies. Knowing your enemy is the key to defeating them in battle so the more you learn about flies, the better equipped you are at containing them.

Deer Fly/Horse Fly
Officially known as Tabanids, the horse fly is a biting, blood sucking pest. It's the females that feed on horses because they need blood for its rich egg developing nutrients. Their larva develop in aquatic areas.

Biting Midges
Known as "no-see-ums" because of their very small size, biting midges are blood suckers and like the horse fly, the females are the feeders. They prefer to feed on calm nights.

Stable Flies
Similar to common house flies but with a more rigid, protruding mouth, stable flies are blood feeders. Their larva thrive in areas where hay and feed are mixed with manure. Both male and female stable flies feed on horse.

House Flies
House flies are a non-biting fly but typically cause stress for horses by feeding on eye secretions. As with other flies, their larva develop in manure and other decaying material.

The most active feeding time for mosquitoes is two hours after sunset. Only the females feed and unlike their fly counterparts, mosquito larva develop in permanent water sources or other areas with standing water.

Fly Control
What can you do to keep fly populations under control and your horses happy in the barn? If you start your fly control program early in the season, stay consistent with your routines and adapt your plan as the season progresses.

Sanitation - Keeping your stables clean and clear of manure and other areas where larva develop will help keep the overall fly population down.

Fly Sprays - The regular use of fly sprays can significantly improve the comfort level of your horses by eliminating and repelling flies and mosquitoes. Natural fly sprays (chemical free) are also an option. Natural insect protection typically works best early in the season.

Feed Through Supplements - There are several feed through supplements that are designed to make horse's coats unpleasant to flies and others that eliminate larva development in manure.

Stable Protection - Fly baits and traps are handy in stable areas as well as box fans for keeping away the midges.

Fly Masks - To keep flies away from the head, eyes and ears try using fly masks.

Other - There are all sorts of lotions, leg bands (especially good for bot fly protection), gels, lotions and spot-on treatments as well.

There is no shortage of good fly control products and with the threat that flies and mosquitoes pose to your horses it's important to make sure you do everything you can to reduce the fly and mosquito population in your area. Good stable sanitation and a mix of fly control products applied throughout the year will help keep your horse healthy and in the long run will save you money.