Here’s a quick run­down of the ways you can curb the in­sects that pester your horse.

EQUUS - - Equus -

Fly con­trol tips

It’s spring­time again, and with it comes warm weather, sun­shine, flow­ers—and flies. We’ve all been fight­ing these winged pests for years and know what to do. But cli­mate con­di­tions vary every sea­son, and dif­fer­ent fly species can move into new ar­eas with the chang­ing weather. Some­times reach­ing for the same old fly spray just isn’t good enough.

Re­view­ing your fly con­trol strate­gies every year is a good idea. Here’s a brief over­view of the species that might be out there and what you can do to pro­tect your horses from them.


The first step in stop­ping flies is to iden­tify the of­fend­ers—many look very sim­i­lar, but of­ten the dif­fer­ent pest species can be iden­ti­fied by their unique be­hav­iors and habi­tats. And they are best con­trolled by strate­gies that tar­get their life­styles. Here are the flies most likely to be both­er­ing your horses:


look like house­flies, but they in­flict painful bites, most of­ten on a horse’s legs but also on the belly, face and neck. They can be found around live­stock prac­ti­cally any­where in the coun­try, but they will reach their peak in warmer cli­mates, es­pe­cially in hot­ter, wet­ter weather. Sta­ble flies pre­fer bright, sunny ar­eas and tend not to en­ter dark en­clo­sures.


in­flict painful bites that bleed. Deer flies tend to at­tack the head and neck. Smaller horse­flies bite on the legs, and the larger ones feed on the horse’s back. These types of flies lay their eggs in moist soil or vege­ta­tion near ponds, marshes and other bod­ies of wa­ter and are most com­monly found in or within a few miles of forests or wet­lands. How­ever, some may travel as far as 30 miles in search of blood meals. Horse­fly and deer fly species pre­fer bright sun­light on hot, still days.


do not bite, but they con­gre­gate near open wounds and se­cre­tions, such as tears or mu­cus. They breed in moist, de­cay­ing veg­etable mat­ter, in­clud­ing garbage, hay and grass clip­pings as well as ma­nure. House­flies pre­fer dark, in­te­rior spa­ces.


in­flict painful bites, usu­ally on sparsely haired ar­eas, such as the ears and gen­i­tals. Al­though they can be found as far south as Florida, black flies are no­to­ri­ous pests up north. They are most abun­dant in forested ar­eas with slow-mov­ing wa­ter­ways, such as streams, lakes or canals, in which they lay their eggs. They feed pri­mar­ily on bright, sunny days and pre­fer not to fly into dark en­clo­sures.


tend to con­gre­gate on the horse’s belly, where sin­gle flies may bite mul­ti­ple times be­fore fly­ing off. On cooler days, they may also feed on the neck, shoul­ders and back. Horn

flies are nor­mally found near cat­tle, and they lay their eggs only in fresh cow ma­nure, but they will af­fect horses in shared or ad­join­ing pas­tures.


do not bite, but they con­gre­gate on the face to feed on saliva, tears and mu­cus. Face flies pre­fer cat­tle and breed only in cow ma­nure, but they will also land on horses pas­tured within a quar­ter mile. They are most ac­tive in the spring and sum­mer but not in hot, dry weather.


(bit­ing midges, bit­ing gnats, no-see-ums) at­tack dif­fer­ent parts of the horse, de­pend­ing on the species, but the more com­mon ones tend to bite at the tail­head, ears, mane, withers and rump; oth­ers go for the belly. Al­though the in­di­vid­ual flies are tiny, they form dense swarms that in­flict many bites at once. These flies breed in wet places, such as slow, still streams, marshes and rot­ting vege­ta­tion, and are most ac­tive just af­ter sun­set.


will bite any­where on the body. Most abun­dant in warm, wet weather, mos­qui­toes breed in stag­nant wa­ter, and their pop­u­la­tions spike near marshes, ponds and any chron­i­cally wet ground, es­pe­cially af­ter flood­ing. Smaller pud­dles, such as oc­cur in aban­doned tires or blocked rain gut­ters, can also serve as breed­ing reser­voirs. Mos­qui­toes are most ac­tive in low­light con­di­tions, such as in shady woods or at dawn or dusk.


Chem­i­cal con­trols in­clude in­sec­ti­cides and re­pel­lents, ap­plied di­rectly to the horse. Fly sprays are com­mon, and many brands are avail­able, but most con­tain ac­tive in­gre­di­ents that fall into two cat­e­gories.


usu­ally con­tain pyrethrin, a nat­u­ral com­pound de­rived from a type of chrysan­the­mum, or a pyrethroid, usu­ally per­me­thrin, a sim­i­lar syn­thetic com­pound. These for­mu­la­tions de­ter flies from land­ing and kill the ones that do bite. These work against many smaller bit­ing flies, in­clud­ing mos­qui­toes, house­flies, sta­ble flies, deer flies and gnats. Re­pel­lents, which are of­ten mar­keted as “all nat­u­ral” al­ter­na­tives to the in­sec­ti­cides, con­tain strong-smelling oils, such as cit­ronella, cedar or tea tree. They do not kill flies but in­stead dis­cour­age them from land­ing by mask­ing the odor of the horse. Both in­sec­ti­cides and re­pel­lents are avail­able in lo­tions, gels, rol­lons and wet wipes as well as sprays; these are use­ful for ap­pli­ca­tions around the face as well as touchups along the trail, but they are best used as com­ple­ments to the sprays, rather than re­place­ments.


are an al­ter­na­tive to sprays. Like flea-con­trol prod­ucts for cats and dogs, these are ap­plied via drops at key points on a horse’s body.


can also be found in prod­ucts like fly col­lars and leg bands—which, not un­like flea col­lars for dogs, are worn on the horse’s body and de­ter flies from land­ing nearby.

Horse cloth­ing can also phys­i­cally block flies from land­ing on the horse.


are light­weight cov­er­ings for the horse’s torso, and many come with ex­tra ap­pendages, to ex­tend cov­er­age over the tail, belly and neck, where culi­coides tend to at­tack. Light-col­ored fly sheets pro­vide an ex­tra de­ter­rent to horse- and deer flies, which track vic­tims by sight and are at­tracted to large, dark ob­jects. Also avail­able are quar­ter sheets, which cover a horse’s rump and flanks while un­der sad­dle.


mesh cov­er­ings for the lower legs, can guard against sta­ble flies and other in­sects that alight there.

In­sec­ti­cides and re­pel­lents are avail­able in lo­tions, gels, rol­lons and wet wipes as well as sprays.


are see-through mesh shields that cover the eyes to ward off face flies and house­flies at­tracted to tears; some come with ear nets, cov­er­ings for the ears, which are use­ful if black flies are a nui­sance. Oth­ers come with fringed ex­ten­sions that fall down over the nos­trils to de­ter flies from land­ing there. In ad­di­tion, some fly masks are de­signed for use with bri­dles to pro­tect the face while rid­ing.


de­signed for use with a bri­dle, are cro­cheted cot­ton cov­er­ings that keep flies off of the ears and poll; many of these have a tas­seled front edge that lies above the eyes for fur­ther de­ter­rence.


they can es­cape into to dodge flies that like sun­light. For ex­tra pro­tec­tion, hang long pan­els of burlap or net­ting over the door­way, im­preg­nated with fly spray. These will brush off and re­pel any flies al­ready on the horse as he pushes his way through the door­way—just make sure you train the horse that he can get through what might look like an im­pen­e­tra­ble bar­rier. In ad­di­tion, sta­bling horses dur­ing flies’ peak pe­ri­ods of ac­tiv­ity may also help—turn them out at night if day­light fliers, like black flies, are preva­lent. Horses sen­si­tive to culi­coides do bet­ter if sta­bled at night.


• inside the barn, au­to­matic mist­ing sys­tems re­lease fine sprays at reg­u­lar in­ter­vals from noz­zles in the ceil­ing.

• fans placed strate­gi­cally to keep the air mov­ing in the aisles and stalls can also de­ter flies: Smaller in­sects like house­flies and gnats pre­fer to fly in still air, and the breeze also dis­perses the car­bon diox­ide a horse ex­hales, which can at­tract some flies.

• Very fine well sealed screens in the win­dows will keep out mos­qui­toes and gnats.

• a va­ri­ety of traps are avail­able, baited with food, pheromones or other at­trac­tants de­signed to ap­peal to dif­fer­ent types of flies. House- and sta­ble flies are at­tracted to scent lures, such as sugar or ma­nure. Horse­flies are at­tracted to dark colors, so a large black ball is some­times used to lure them into a cham­ber they can’t es­cape. Fly sticks and tapes lure house- and sta­ble flies onto sticky sur­faces that en­trap them.

• Bug zap­pers are blue­light de­vices that ele-ctro­cute flies drawn into an elec­tric grid; two draw­backs are that they must be placed where they can­not be knocked down by an­i­mals, and they can also at­tract and kill ben­e­fi­cial in­sects.


• re­move ma­nure from stalls and pad­docks daily. Sta­ble and house­fly eggs, which are laid in ma­nure, hatch af­ter 10 to R1 days, so an ideal con­trol prac­tice would be to get the ma­nure off the prop­erty each week.

• Re­lease ben­e­fi­cial preda­tors These tiny wasps or ne­ma­todes can be pur­chased from farm and gar­den sup­pli­ers. When sprin­kled on ma­nure or other breed­ing ar­eas, they hatch and par­a­sitize im­ma­ture flies to re­duce the num­ber that reach adult­hood. Feed-through fly con­trol prod­ucts, added to each horse’s feed, pass harm­lessly through his sys­tem but then kill any in­sect lar­vae hatched in the ma­nure.

• Com­post ma­nure. This process gen­er­ates enough heat to kill any eggs.

• Spread ma­nure over fields. Just make sure the layer is thin enough that it dries quickly in the sun Avoid spread­ing ma­nure in pas­tures where horses are ac­tively graz­ing, and keep it away from muddy, high-traf­fic ar­eas that tend to re­main wet.

• Re­move wet bed­ding as dili­gently as you do the ma­nure. Sta­ble flies are highly at­tracted to the smell of horse urine. It also helps to spread hy­drated lime, also called “slack lime” or agri­cul­tural lime, on wet spots on stall floors.

• Elim­i­nate stag­nant wa­ter where flies breed Fill in pot­holes, clean clogged gut­ters, re­pair leak­ing plumb­ing and pick up un­used items, such as flow­er­pots, old tires and toys, that can col­lEct raiN Rinse and re­fill wa­ter buck­ets each day, and re­move fallen leaves and other de­bris from troughs.

Con­trol­ling flies around the farm may seem like a Sisyphean task—no mat­ter how much You do, there will al­ways be more. But keep­ing up with the ba­sic chores will go a long way to­ward re­duc­ing their num­bers. your horses will thank you for it.

Com­post ma­nure. This process gen­er­ates enough heat to kill any eggs.

House­fly Deer fly Horse­fly

Sta­ble fly Black fly


Fly Mask

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