Fly Control

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How to Control Flies

  1998 - 2008 Cherry Hill   Copyright Information



    Fly Traps  Jar traps that utilize attractants can capture thousands of flies.  Some systems utilize muscalure, a sex attractant (pheromone) to draw the flies.  Others require the addition of fish or meat.  These traps, commonly used with a 1 or 2 1/2 gallon jar, can be smelly and must be emptied, then restocked.  Disposable traps are available for 1/5 the price of the jar traps.  They are designed to be used with the supplied sex attractant and water and claim to hold 10,000 flies.
Fly Papers  Fly paper is available in strips of several widths.  Some are designed to hang from the ceiling while others are to be tacked across doorways or aisles.  Some contain sex attractants, others are merely sticky.  A few brands contain insecticides, so it is important to read the label if you plan to use them around food or animals.  Fly paper is generally an inexpensive, disposable way of mechanically catching flies.


       FLY ZAPPERS.  A mechanical way of killing flies is to use an electric fly zapper.  The flies are attracted to the light and are immediately killed upon contact.

Stablekeeping        INSECTICIDES.  An insecticide is a chemical that kills flies quickly.  A repellent (covered later) is a substance that discourages flies from landing.  While insecticides are an important part of many fly control programs, much less has to be done with insecticides if manure and moisture are managed properly.  The indiscriminate use of any form of insecticide can result in the development of resistant strains of flies and can cause harm to horses, humans, and the environment.
        What type and brand of insecticide will work best for you will depend on your weather, fly problem, style of management, and each horse's sensitivity.  Finding the best insecticide involves a certain amount of testing for effectiveness and allergic reactions (both human and horse).
    Equine insecticides generally fall into one of four categories: pyrethrins ("natural" insecticides), permethrins (synthetic pyrethrins), carbamates, and organophosphates....listed in order from least toxic to most toxic and from least long-lasting to most long-lasting.  Insecticides are available in many forms for various applications.
    Topical sprays can be purchased in ready-to-apply forms or concentrates that are usually diluted in a 1:7 ratio of insecticide to water for house flies or a stronger mix for other flies.  Certain general livestock sprays are not safe for use on horses.
    Premises sprays are for use in and around buildings.  Some are not safe to use on livestock, manure, or bedding.  Long-term (up to six weeks) residual insecticides are designed to be applied on fly resting sites such as on rafters or in bushes.  Stable sprays are usually sold as concentrates which are diluted and applied with sprayers that range in cost from $20-100.
Horsekeeping On A Small Acreage    Foggers are disposable cans of insecticide designed for the interior of buildings.  To use a fogger, close all doors, set the can to spray automatically until empty, keep the doors closed for 15 minutes, then ventilate the building.
Automatic misters are available in several types.  The disposable type uses an aerosol can set in a battery-operated automatic spray unit that delivers a spray every 15 minutes and lasts for about a month.  A unit is required for every 6000 square feet.  Electric fogger/misters are available for about five times the price.  Instead of using aerosol cans of insecticide, the electric misters have a reservoir that can be filled with a chosen solution.  Barn-wide automatic mister systems are incorporated in some large barns.  Since flies tend to congregate in certain places during certain times of the day, an effective use of misters is to aim them at the resting places and be sure they are functioning during fly siesta time.

    IMPREGNATED STRIPS.  Strips impregnated with insecticide are designed to keep approximately 1000 square feet free of flies for about 4 months so could be useful for enclosed areas such as tack rooms, feed rooms, and offices.  However, since there are a variety on the market, it is essential to read the package carefully as some are not safe to be used in enclosed areas where humans frequent or in areas where food is present.

    FLY BAIT (POISON)  The idea behind fly baits is to attract and entice flies to eat a specially prepared "food" that is laced with insecticides.  To that end, some baits contain sex attractants plus a sugar-based feeding enticer.  Fly bait can be used in hanging bait stations or as scatter bait on lawns and around buildings.  It is important to note the potential danger of other animals (birds, puppies, children) eating the bait.

    REPELLENTS.  Repellents are available as spray, lotion, wipe-on, gel, dusting powder, ointment, roll-on, shampoos, and towelettes.  Repellents contain a substance irritating to flies, such as oil of citronella, and most contain some amount of insecticide (mostly pyrethrins and permethrins) as well. Some repellents, like Bare Skin Barrier, contain non-toxic natural botanicals that are non-irritating to horses and to humans.

Repellents can be water, oil, or alcohol based.  Oil-based repellents remain on the hair shaft longer but the oil attracts dirt.  Water-based repellents don't last as long but attract less dirt.  To increase the lasting effect, some water-based repellents are made with silicone which coats the hair shaft and holds the repellent in place longer.  Alcohol-based repellents dry quickly so are good for a fast touch-up but the alcohol can have a drying effect on the hair and skin.  Repellents can also contain sunscreen, coat conditioners Horse Health Care by Cherry Hill(lanolin, aloe vera), and other products which increase lasting power.  Claims of duration of protection range from 1 to 14 days.  How long a repellent will last depends on the weather, the management, the exercise level of the horse (how much he sweats) and grooming (brushing, blanketing, and whether the horse rolls).

    FLY MASKS.  Fly masks are available in several styles.  Some protect the eyes while others protect the eyes, ears, and jowls.  Most are made of a mesh that allows the horse to see.
    FLY STRIPS AND TAGS.  Strips impregnated with repellent can be attached to halters.  Also available is a collar/brow band affair that has a breakaway feature.  These fly strips are particularly useful for controlling face flies and can last several months.  Face flies have sponging mouth parts and feed on mucus around the eyes and nostrils often causing inflammation and infection.  Some degree of relief can also be afforded a horse by using fly shakers (with or without repellent) attached to the crown piece of a halter or brow-band of a bridle.  These strips mechanically jiggle the flies off a horse's face when he shakes his head.
Fly Sheets  Cool, open-weave, mesh fly sheets keep flies from pestering the horse's body.  Consider using a repellent on the legs, belly and face in conjunction with a fly sheet.

Cherry Hill's Horsekeeping Almanac    AN ASSISTANT.  In pre-chemical days, a human assistant was sometimes the fly-control method of choice.  While the farrier worked, his young assistant stood nearby with a fly chaser, a horse hair swish made from long tail hairs.  The assistant gently brushed away the flies that the horse couldn't reach with his "regular tail".

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