Fly Control: A Comprehensive Battle Plan

If they haven’t already arrived, they’ll be at your barn soon! Flies are not only annoying to you and your horses, they can also bite and spread disease. Every summer is a battle to control the fly population and keep them from bugging your horses. There are several methods of fighting flies out there. The best approach is to use the methods that work best for you, and in combination with each other. If you attack the flies on multiple fronts, you won’t kill every single one, but you should still emerge victorious!

horse needs fly mask
This horse needs a fly mask to protect his eyes!

Bolster Your Defenses:  Prevent Fly Populations From Growing

Implement good stable management practices to make your facility as inhospitable as possible.

  • Manage and remove manure, the housefly’s favorite meal. Clean stalls daily, and don’t let your manure pile get too big. If you’re working with a pasture situation, spread manure so that it can dry out and break down quickly.
  • Reduce wet areas, which draw in insects. Repair leaky plumbing, keep stalls dry, and eliminate standing water in drainage areas.
  • Increase airflow around the barn by installing fans.
  • Quickly dispose of garbage and keep any food in secure containers.

Attack With Effective Anti-Fly Tools

Common ways to protect your horses and control the fly population at the same time.

  • Create a physical barrier between your horse and the flies using fly masks, sheets, and boots.  Fly masks are the most popular warm weather accessory for horses (If only they made it through the whole season without being destroyed!  If only they stayed on your horse’s head and off the ground!).  These mesh items are lightweight and breathable, protecting your horse from being bitten.   There is also the additional benefit of some UV ray protection for horses with light skin prone to sunburn, or dark coats prone to sun bleaching.
  • Attract and kill adult flies using fly traps.  There are several different kinds of traps available, so experiment and find out what suits you best.  These can be very effective, but also pretty unsavory to handle and dispose of.
  • Make your horse less attractive to flies by applying topicals.  These can be sprays, roll-ons, spot-ons, or shampoos.  They can be composed of natural or synthetic insecticides, and there are dozens and dozens of options available.  Fly spray is a staple item found in the barn.  It works quickly and is effective in the short term, however if your horse is bathed or sweats frequently, the product can be short lived.
  • Go biological by releasing fly parasites.  These are good bugs that seek out and eat fly larvae, preventing them from ever becoming adult flies.  This method is very effective at preventing future fly generations from developing, but does not get rid of adult flies.

Take a further look in to these options and decide what methods will work best for you.  Deciding factors might include where your horses are kept, the type of flies in your area, your budget, and maintenance level.  Dealing with flies just comes with the territory of horse ownership, but you don’t have to take them lying down!