Longer days and warmer weather bring a sigh of relief to us, horse lovers. Outdoor lessons, relaxing trail rides, and highly anticipated horse shows are just a few activities that we look forward to all winter. But one thing that we (and our horses) don’t exactly look forward to is the return of flies, pests, and all things creepy-crawly. But not to fear. There are plenty of things you can do to keep you and your horse more comfortable during these “buggy” months! We’ll dive into ways to prevent flies from overtaking your farm in the first place, and then ways to manage the pests if they’ve already moved in.
Prevention is key!!
Feed Through Fly Control
Sometimes the best way to manage flies and insects is through prevention. Following a feed-through fly control system can be a significant way to stop insects before they become a problem. A “feed-through” system involves using insect growth regulators (IGR’s) that inhibit the proper growth cycle of an insect. The IGR keeps the fly larva from developing an exoskeleton, causing them to die. Garlic and apple cider vinegar are natural options for feed-through control. Insects prefer an acidic environment, so the garlic and apple cider vinegar make your horse’s pH balance more alkaline. While this doesn’t kill the insects, it deters them from even making an appearance.
These bad boys are tiny wasps that break the insect life cycle by eating fly larva and then laying eggs in the pupa, so the entire cycle starts again. If “tiny wasps” thoroughly freaked you out, no need to worry, these are nocturnal, non-stinging wasps so pose no danger to you. They’re just your friendly neighborhood fly killer!
Managing Adult Flies
A staple in every equestrian’s summer tack box is some good ‘ole fly spray! It is the equivalent of non-horsey people’s “bug spray” and can be a major lifesaver for your horse! There is a multitude of different fly sprays on the market today depending on what your desires are. Chemical or natural formulas, water, or oil-based... All of them have their merits depending on what you’re specifically looking for.
A great product for those looking for a natural option! It’s formulated with peppermint, citronella, and geraniol essential oils to deter and kill insects. Not only does it smell good…. But it WORKS!
A classic fly spray we all know and love! Pyranha is formulated with the insecticide pyrethrum, which originates from the Chrysanthemum plant in Southwest Asia. The fly spray comes in a bunch of different formulas to suit your needs.
There are tons of automated fly spray systems on the market today. What are they exactly? Pretty much exactly what it sounds like, they are battery-operated devices placed around the barn that release aerosol insecticide automatically at specific intervals. Automated systems make fly maintenance more convenient since they provide a steady injection of fly spray on the farm without you having to worry about it. With anything involving chemicals and animals, there’s controversy over if prolonged exposure to the aerosol is harmful to the animals and humans in contact with it. There is evidence on both sides, so it's up to the consumer to decide how they feel about it.
For some horses, fly spray just isn’t enough! That’s when you’ve got to break out the fly masks and fly sheets! They might end up looking like aliens but at least they aren’t running around like hooligans to avoid the swarms. Most also come with the added benefit of UV protection!
One of our all-time favorites! Made with a soft and breathable nylon micro mesh fabric, the Crusader features an extra hole for the horse’s forelock and also protects from 70% of UV rays. Choose from a wide range of sizes and styles, such as with or without ears, or the long nose version, for those with white noses prone to sunburn. Cashel also makes masks that support certain charities, so you can feel good about your purchases.
The newest in fly prevention technology! You may think this sheet’s color scheme is just for looks, but do you know the scientific evidence behind it? Turn’s out insects can’t process certain colors and are attracted to ultraviolet lights. Horseware dialed into that knowledge to create the Evolution Fly Sheet with colors that do not contain UV pigments. The orange and aqua colors, along with the pattern of the sheet camouflages the horse from insects and bugs!
I think we can all agree that the pesky flies are worth putting up with for all the fun things that the warmer weather brings! So grab your sunglasses and get ready for all your favorite summer shenanigans!