With new and improved traps, effective sprays and handy little fly eaters on the market, there's no reason for your horses to suffer from swarms of flies this year-or their tendency to pass along pigeon fever, West Nile virus and Equine Infectious Anemia.
To start with, here's some fly trivia for you as we head into pest season: it takes eight days for fly eggs to produce adult flies, and each adult lives for 21 days, with females able to lay some 900 eggs. A two-tiered approach that consists of destroying fly eggs and cocoons-and managing the adult population-will be your best strategy.
The most effective way to prevent fly eggs from turning into flies is to use a feed-through fly-control supplement or to buy and distribute natural fly parasites before the weather turns warm. Then, to eliminate the adults buzzing around, a plethora of methods are available, many of which are listed below. In the meantime, there are several rules of thumb to brush up on that, if you follow them, will help manage fly reproduction all on their own.
For starters, clean, clean, clean. By lining your trash cans with plastic and using tight lids, regularly hauling manure out of horse pens and disposing of rotting hay bales, loose straw and garbage, you're eliminating the odors that attract breeding flies.
And compost piles are not the ripe breeding grounds you might imagine because they generate heat-especially if you cover the pile with plastic. The heat kills fly larvae.
If you don't transport manure to a big pile, spread it in the pasture thinly with a harrow. This works because if you dry out the excrement within five days, fly pupae can't hatch. Similarly, if you clean your stalls at least every seven days, you'll be getting rid of fly pupae that haven't quite had time to hatch. Also, haul off all roadkill or dead animals like squirrels, rabbits and cats to eliminate prime fly breeding grounds, and knock down any areas of long weeds where flies can rest and hide from temperature fluctuations.
There's no way we can include all the products on the market, but here are some ideas for fly control and how to get your hands on it:
Advantages: Pesticide-free and requires no messy clean up or administration.
Disadvantages: Doesn't control adult fly population.
Solitude IGR from Pfizer
You can stop flies right where they start this spring by top-dressing a half-ounce of Solitude IGR on your horse's grain daily. Within the alfalfa-based pellet is an ingredient called cryomazine that will be excreted in your horse's manure, where it prevents the developing flies from producing chitin (the contents of the hard outer shell of an insect's body).
Within two weeks of feeding Solitude IGR, you should see fly populations decline noticeably, and after four to six weeks, the fly population should be controlled in full. You may still need to repel or kill flies that migrate from untreated areas, but the company claims you'll have a dramatic decrease in your fly population. The product is proven safe for horses, but consult your veterinarian to determine the ideal treatment program for your location.
It costs roughly $34 for two pounds that will last 64 days. For more, visit www.pfizerah.com or call 800-366-5288.
Equitrol II & SimpliFly from Farnam
Ninety percent of the fly population is in the pre-adult stages, reports Farnam, so by killing fly larvae, you stop flies at the source. Their pelleted Equitrol II and Simplifly with Larvastop use an ingredient called diflubenzuron to inhibit fly growth. The feeds are reportedly highly palatable and available in 60- to 320-day supplies. You'd feed one ounce per horse per day of each.
SimpliFly with Larvastop contains no organophosphates and fly larvae haven't developed a resistance to date. Farnam claims it's the only feed-through pesticide that's been granted "Reduced Risk" status by the EPA.
SimpliFly costs roughly $25 for four pounds, which last 60 days, and Equitrol II runs you about $20 for the same. For more, call 800-234-2269 or visit www.farnamhorse.com.
Advantages: Pesticide-free and easy to administer; no risk to horses.
Disadvantages: Doesn't control adult fly population, and can't be used with pesticide sprays.
Fly Eliminators from Arbico
The one thing about using Mother Nature to control the reproduction of flies is that you need to start before breeding season, because it only takes three days of 40-degree weather for wintering fly populations to start laying eggs.
Arbico's Fly Eliminators are gnat-sized parasitic wasps that feed upon and breed within developing (pupal) stages of fly larvae, thereby eliminating adult flies. They reproduce in two to three weeks, constantly reinforcing their population, but flies reproduce even faster, which means you'll need to release shipments of Fly Eliminators every three to four weeks throughout fly season.
Fly Eliminators come as a small bag of wood shavings containing fly pupae that are already parasitized. You simply check to see if some of the pupae have hatched, then disperse small handfuls or scoops around your property into typical fly breeding hot-spots-like manure piles, bedding, garbage and feed areas-then cover with dirt or manure to protect the pupae.
There's a video online to demonstrate, and the site allows you to choose your fly zone based on your location, how many horses you have, your fly level, your manure management and whether you have neighbors with horses.
A regular program of 11 shipments costs $165 for two to five horses, and $358 for 11 to 15 horses. For more, call 800-827-2847 or visit http://www.arbico-organics.com/category/fly-control-program.
Fly Predators from Spalding
Spalding's tiny Fly Predators take over the fly's cocoon and thus kill the immature fly. The product has been used by loyal customers for decades now, and the company claims the little friendlies will parasitize almost every fly pupae on your place.
Each small pouch of Predators should be released just after the last hard frost through spring and summer (the bugs are barely visible and don't bother people or animals). They survive from about two weeks to one month.
To buy one month's worth of Predators for one to five horses costs $18 per month, and runs $38 for 11 to 15 horses. It's a good idea to release them now, because if you wait until after daytime highs have been in the 60s consistently, you'll need two to three times the normal quantity of Predators. For more, call 888-880-1579 or visit www.spalding-labs.com.
Fly Parasites from The Source
The Source's Biological Fly Control has also been around a quarter-century. The company likens the breeding of flies to a leaking faucet, making the point that it makes more sense for you to stop the leak than just keep putting a bucket under it! The Source's Fly Parasites lay their eggs inside the immature fly pupae and the hatching parasites feed on and eradicate the developing flies.
The company provides a mix of several species that they've found through research is the most effective. They are shipped in their pupal stage in pine shavings to insulate and protect them during shipment. Once released, each insect kills 40 to 50 flies and in two to three weeks they reproduce. They're nocturnal and don't bite, sting, nest or swarm livestock.
Buying 5,000 of the little critters for one to five horses every three weeks costs $18 including shipping, while three times that amount should be ordered for 11 to 15 horses, and bulk pricing is available. Fore more, call 800-380-3560 or visit www.sourcebiofly.com.
Advantages: Economical; eliminates existing flies with no maintenance.
Disadvantages: Can be stinky or messy to dispose of dead flies.
Epps Biting Fly Trap from Horseline
The number-one ranked fly control product in a recent Cornell University study was the Epps Biting Fly Trap, which is environmentally friendly and designed to kill those large, hard-biting horse and deer flies.
Here's how it works: flies are attracted to large objects of contrasting color to the surrounding area because they tend to be potential hosts, like cattle, deer, etc. Flies also circle their host before biting, so the trap features clear space resembling the air between an animal's legs and over its back. As the flies circle the "host," they hit the deflectors and ricochet into the soapy water below.
The trap should be put in a pasture in an open, sunny area and anchored with four T-posts. The trap is said to cover 20 acres and reduce flies by 80 percent, killing a pound of flies every day that you remove with the net provided. A 30-day satisfaction guarantee is offered. For pricing, call 800-208-4846 or visit www.horselineproducts.com.
Traps from Farnam
The BlueStreak Fly Bait advanced formula with Z-9 Tricosene attracts and quickly kills both sexes of flies, with four ounces treating 500 square feet. It's used as a bait station by filling the bait chamber with two ounces, and placing about two bait stations per 500 square feet of fly feeding area. Be sure to hang them at least four feet high out of reach of children and food-producing animals.
The Bite Free Stable Fly Trap has no insecticides and is said to hold more than other sticky traps. The best part is that it's disposable-which means you just throw it away when it's full, and it's weatherproof. The surface holds 8,000 flies and it's designed to be used anywhere. For sticky traps, Farnam also offers the sticky EZ Trap and Fly Stik.
For attractants (which lure flies into water with sex pheromones and food odors), Farnam offers the two-quart Captivator (water), which is reusable and economical, and the Fly Terminator Pro, which can be hung by its handle and uses a patented attractant to trap up to 35,000 flies.
For pricing, call 800-234-2269 or visit www.farnam horse.com.
Advantages: Kills flies and other insects on contact and relieves horses immediately.
Disadvantages: Flies can develop resistance; toxicity and duration of effectiveness varies.
WF Young Inc.
Absorbine offers a myriad of fly repellant and insecticide sprays, starting with the economical Flys-X, made with natural pyrethrins and including its big hitter, Bug Block, which kills more than 70 species of flies and lasts a week or two-even knocking out scorpions and Black Widows. One of the handiest innovations in fly control is the little purple Bug Block Easy Wipe, a four-ounce hands-free roll-on for hard-to-spray places like near ears and eyes.
The company's Supershield Red Repellant is a water-resistant spray that's effective up to three days and reportedly packs the highest level of natural pyrethrins of any major brand-plus, it conditions the coat. And their Duraguard spray is sweat-proof, waterproof and worry-proof because it hits virtually every species even in the wettest conditions. An exclusive technology bonds the ingredients to the hair shaft so water rolls right off for up to two weeks.
They've also just come out with Ultrashield EX, the first weatherproof, sweat-resistant, 17-day formula in fly control. The product contains citronella to repel flies, ticks and mosquitos; offers a triple punch of pyrethrins, permethrin and piperonyl butoxide; and two sunscreens and coat conditioners, including aloe and lanolin.
Ultrashield EX costs roughly $18 for a quart or $50 for a gallon; with Duraguard at $15 and $50; Bug Block at $13 and $37; Supershield Red at $16 for a quart and Flys-X at $10 for a quart with sprayer. The Bug Block Swipe is $7 for each four-ounce container. For more, call 800-628-9653 or visit www.absorbine.com.
Farnam offers its economical Bronco spray plus citronella and aloe, as well as a spray or wipe-on formula called Bite Free, which repels flies for five to seven days and kills deer ticks, too. It's a water-based formula that contains sunscreen, as well.
The company's Endure Sweat-Resistant spray provides up to 14 days of fly control and uses RepeLock, a special conditioner that binds to the hair shaft. It's also available in a roll-on version for horses' faces and other hard-to-spray areas. The company also offers Equi-Spot Spot-On Fly Control and Citronella Spray, which also conditions the coat.
The Citronella Spray costs roughly $15 for a quart and $46 for a gallon; the Endure costs $19 and $55; Bronco runs you $6 and $17; and the Bite Free is $17 for a quart with sprayer. The Endure roll-on applicator costs about $8. For more, call 800-234-2269 or visit www.farnamhorse.com.
The veteran pesticide company has a new Spraymaster Kit for your barn that consists of a ½ horsepower electric motor-driven pump controlled by a solid state electronic timer that's programmed to dispense a fine mist of insecticide at specific intervals through special spray nozzles. The result is a state-of-the-art, hassle-free solution for the control of harmful flying and biting insects in and around horse barns.
Pyranha also sells Equine Spray and Wipe, a water-based, advanced horse fly spray with three active ingredients that can be effective for up to 30 days, although they recommend applying it every 10-14 days. It also offers Wipe N Spray, a pyrethrin-based formula that gives the hair a high sheen when brushed out.
The Spray and Wipe costs roughly $18 for a quart and $47 for a gallon, while the Wipe N Spray is $12 and $40. For more, call 800-231-2966 or visit www.pyranhainc.com.
Advantages: Non-toxic to horses and people.
Disadvantages: Effectiveness varies, and horses can be allergic to some natural substances.
Farnam offers the Equisect Fly Repellant spray, which contains the botanical repellant PyGanic, along with oils of citronella, clove stem, thyme and corn mint. Pyranha markets the Zero-Bite Natural Insect Spray, using geraniol, coconut and wintergreen to fight flies naturally; and WF Young offers Supershield Green, a natural blend of lanolin and aloe conditioners and citronella with oils of tea tree, eucalyptus, lavender, penny royal, pine needles and witch hazel.
Equisect costs about $10 for a quart or $37 for a gallon; Zero-Bite is $13 for a quart with sprayer; and Supershield Green costs $15 a quart.