Fly Control for Horses

September 2, 2019

Hi I’m Rachel Mottet and I’m a PhD student at the University of Minnesota and I’m Roger Moon I’m a professor of Veterinary Entomology also at the University of Minnesota. Our topic today is fly control around horses and this is the time of year that we really start thinking about ways that we can mediate all the flies that are irritating horses. And so how do you know if the flies are problem on your farm? Some of the things you’re going to see your horse doing would be stomping, kicking, swishing their tail, body twitches, bringing their head to one of their forelimbs or over to the side. These are all signs that they’re potentially being bit by flies. So knowing that your horses are bothered by flies is the first step, and you surely want to keep them comfortable. The next question is what kinds of flies are causing misery and in turn if you know who’s the enemy you can think about how to prevent them from occurring. If you watch the flies, ah watch the legs of the horses, if they’re lifting and stamping or kicking back, that’s a real good indicator that your horses are being bitten by what we call stable flies. Stable flies bite all kinds of livestock, but horses are particularly bothered by them. And they’re little bloodsuckers are coming in, taking a blood meal and it’s very painful bite. On the other hand, they could be attacked by what we call aquatic biting flies these are insects that come out of wetlands, like the swap over there, and in turn those would be mosquitoes, black flies, horse flies, deer flies, and maybe a little biting midges. All of those are insects that come from different places. Knowing that it’s stable flies that’s a bother empowers you to work on your management at your horse farm and prevent those flies from becoming bothersome during the summer. Horse owners should understand that they can be breeding flies on their own farms. Flies are adults at the end of their life cycle they grew up from eggs and maggots in moist organic matter. Horse owners need to know how to scout their place, searching for maggots, I call it troweling for maggots kind of like dialing for dollars, but you’re looking for places where maggots can be developing and you’ve got to think about maggots growing up in rotting organic matter. It can be feed on the front end of the horse, feed mishandled like the bottoms of bales that get wet, or wastage that falls on the ground, gets wet, moist, its microbially active. Bacteria are breaking it down and that’s what the maggots are actually feeding on. It can also be feces, the other end of the horse. And it can be soiled bedding that the horse spends time in, urinating defecating, that material gets mixed together we think of that as manure, but it’s actually fly breeding medium and it’s the place where the maggots develop and in turn on your farm what you can do is prevent that from happening by finding the active sites and either piling up and getting it to compost hot, or spread it out so it dries out quickly. Those are the two basic things that we can do to stop flies from breeding and organic matter around horse farms. After everything has been done to prevent on-farm breeding, a fallback is to apply insecticides to kill adult flies directly. Indoor space sprays are fine mists supplied from spray cans or foggers. These mists kill flies on direct contact. They break down quickly so they may need to be reapplied often. Residual premise sprays are water-based products that are sprayed where flies perch on walls, ceilings, fencing, and vegetation. Flies pick up the active ingredient when they land and walk on the treated surfaces. Premise sprays can last longer than space sprays depending on how dusty the treated areas are. Whichever forms are used horse owners should read and follow all label instructions carefully to be safe and most effective. Following the discussion of how to keep the pests from bothering your horses, there are some options for treatment that we put on the actual horse. One of those being commercial fly spray products, like Roger is demonstrating here. What you want to make sure to do is take a look at the active ingredients when you’re purchasing these. Some of the top ingredients you’re going to see are permethrins or pyrethrin. And make sure that you take a look at the label for the directions in terms use. Most fly sprays are going to call for a two-ounce application which equates to about 40 sprays. Some other options that you have would be fly masks, as you see here on these two. Also a fly sheet which we do not have on them yet, but also a really great way to keep flies off. On this horse to my left we’ve got fly bands. What these are, they’re citronella scented bands that repel flies and insects. On the horse my right, we’ve got fly boots. And so these create a physical barrier between the lower limb and pests. Here are the main points in this video. What should horse owners look for to see if biting flies are bothersome? Watch for behaviors that indicate biting flies are annoying their horses. What kinds of flies could be causing the problem? Stable flies and aquatic biting flies could be involved. If stable flies are involved what can horse owners do? Horse owners can manage organic debris at horse facilities to prevent stable fly breeding. After everything has been done to prevent breeding what other actions should horse owners take? Apply space sprays or residual premise sprays, or apply repellents or protective devices directly to the horses to keep them comfortable.

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