It has been a while since I specifically wrote about bug control in stables. My last post was a couple years ago on this topic, www.equinefacilitydesign.com/equine-care/fly-control-for-stables-2.htm, and spring is a perfect time to write about it again.
If you’re excited for warm, sunny days, but already lining up an arsenal of fly spray bottles in your tack room, you know that one of winter’s few charms is a lack of biting bugs. Spring and summer bring horse flies, mosquitoes, no-see-ums, and a host of other pests who love biting your horses (and you). While we’re not suggesting you put down the bottle of fly spray, here are a few simple strategies to help keep the bugs out of your barn.
Keep the Air Moving: Ever walk past the open back door of a restaurant kitchen? Notice that sound of air whooshing from overhead? They’re keeping bugs out of the kitchen with a simple screen of moving air. While a commercial blower is for an individual door, not a barn with lots of open windows and doors, the idea remains the same: keep the air moving, and bugs are literally blown away.
An overhead fan for your stalls, either individually or one big fan, can keep a steady stream of downward-blowing air that deters bugs from landing on horses (and manure, where they’ll lay eggs and make more bugs). If you can’t install an overhead fan, a commercial-grade floor fan placed in front of an open stall door can create a welcome wind for your horse which also makes life hard for winged insects (you’ll see this done at many racetracks).
Fix Your Faucets: And anything else leaking and creating puddles. This line can sound like a broken record, but eliminating standing water really makes the world a better place. Mosquitoes aren’t just annoying, they’re dangerous spreaders of disease — and can be defeated around your barn by simply denying them a breeding ground of stagnant water.
Drag Those Pastures: Mucking your pastures regularly is a great idea which can be hard to execute. Still, even if you don’t have time to hit the paddocks with a wheelbarrow regularly, you can cut down on fly-breeding habitats by dragging the pastures. Spreading out and breaking apart manure piles helps the manure dry out, and flies can’t breed in dry manure.
Try a Feed-Through: Make your horse taste gross to bugs, or try a feed-through supplement which makes it impossible for fly larvae to mature. Some supplements include an Insect Growth Regulator, which contains cyromazine, a substance which passes through the horse’s system and into manure, where it prevents fly larvae from developing an exoskeleton. There are also supplements which can cause horses to secrete specific oils, which flies detect, and avoid, before even biting the horse. Apple cider vinegar is thought to do the trick as well — just remember that they take time to build up and grow effective in the system.
The fight against flies feels eternal to horse-owners, but we have a host of tools in our arsenal. Don’t rely solely on fly spray: layer on the protection by making your farm a tough place for bugs to live and breed.