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    Stable Pests | Summer 2011 Out Here Magazine

    Your horse's health depends on controlling flies and mosquitoes

    horse grazing with flies bothering it
    Out Here

    By Heather Smith Thomas

    Photography by Fotosearch

    Biting insects such as stable flies, horse flies, horn flies, deer flies, black flies, gnats, and mosquitoes are not only irritating to your horse — making him shake his head, stamp his feet, and constantly swish his tail to try to dislodge them — but they also are hazardous to his health.

    Constant stomping to dislodge stable flies (which prefer to bite the legs) may cause hoof damage from increased concussion. Flies that travel from horse to horse may transmit diseases such as equine infectious anemia. Mosquitoes carry West Nile virus and equine encephalomyelitis. Bites from tiny gnats often cause allergic reactions, with swelling and itching. All these pests can make your horse miserable, so it pays to try to control them.

    Begin by knowing the life cycle of the pest you are trying to control. Stable flies, for instance, breed in wet, rotting organic matter such as old hay and bedding. Cleaning up potential breeding sites such as wasted hay around feeders or piles of old bedding — before weather gets really warm — can greatly reduce the number of flies later.

    Keep standing water to a minimum, to reduce breeding sites for mosquitoes. Do you have a compost pile? Turn it frequently to aid the composting process and you'll reduce your fly population, because heat produced by the fermentation process kills fly eggs and larvae.

    Once you control breeding sites with sanitation, you can add other tactics to control pests, such as releasing predator wasps. These tiny, stingless wasps lay eggs in manure, and their hatching larvae feed on immature stages of stable flies, horn flies, houseflies, and any other flies that breed in manure and rotting organic material.

    A fan in the stall can deter gnats and mosquitoes because they're not strong fliers and don't like to fly in a breeze.

    Try spraying pesticides around buildings and vegetation where some of the insects breed, rest, or congregate. Remember, however, that pesticides also will kill beneficial insects, including predator wasps.

    Flytraps can help — sticky traps, baits, mosquito magnets, or traps that trick horseflies into a capture jar.

    Help your horse by leaving his mane and tail long for swishing flies or attaching fringe to halters or bridles to protect against face flies.

    Apply wipe-on repellent as often as needed (following label directions), keeping in mind that rain, sweat, dewy grass, etc., will wash it away. Remember that some horses may be sensitive to certain ingredients.

    If horse flies are the problem, stabling the horse during warmer daylight hours may help; most of these flies don't like shade and won't go indoors. Fine-mesh screen on barn windows can keep out even the smaller flies and mosquitoes.

    A fan in the stall can deter gnats and mosquitoes because they're not strong fliers and don't like to fly in a breeze. Fly masks that cover eyes and ears and a flysheet to cover his body can protect a horse when he's out at pasture.

    Heather Smith Thomas is the author of several books on horse care.

     

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