This week I thought I would blog a bit about that dreaded summertime pest:  the fly.  Teenie and I were having a movie night and I chose The Fly in preparation for this blog.  She smacked me, told me I had poor taste in movies, and stomped off to sit at the front desk.  Girls.  I just don’t understand them.  Oh well here goes, all I have learned about flies while hanging around the office.

To start with the most common species we see are the stable fly and the house fly.  The house flies are annoying, spread disease, and are generally a pain in the rear.  Stable flies are all that and they live off blood so they bite us and our horses.  Each of these critters enjoy having babies in a mixture of hay or straw, feces, soil, and grain.  Sound familiar?  During my inspections of the stalls at the office I have found this combination of things are quite common around horses.  The stable fly can go from egg to fly in as little as three weeks and the house fly can do the same in as fast as ten days in the summer!

I see many people spraying their horses with loads of sprays trying to keep the flies away but my keen cat sense has determined that this doesn’t work very well.  My research found that sprays work well to knock down adult flies but don’t have much residual effect to keep them away.  Some sprays contain scents that flies find mildly offensive but this approach is better for gnats and mosquitoes.  One insecticide option that can work with flies are products like QuickBayt.  This product is sprinkled on the floor or can be mixed with water and sprayed on vertical surfaces like walls or posts were flies hang out.  When flies come in to contact they are killed.  The product is very safe for children and animals.  Dr. Lacher has proven this at her house when her dog ate a few mouthfuls before realizing QuickBayt tastes horrible.  The manufacturer did this on purpose to minimize the risk of dogs and children thinking it tastes great.

So what does work?  The best way to minimize flies is to minimize their breeding grounds.  Keeping stalls meticulously clean and dry is the most important first step.  It is extremely helpful to remove any hay mats left over after round bales are finished.  Lift one of those mats up and you will find a fly baby making machine!  Composting, when done properly, kills the fly eggs before they can mature.  There are numerous web sites with excellent tips and tricks for composting (hmm future blog?).  One excellent link is  Spreading manure helps dry the manure quickly and, well, spread it out making less fly friendly.  Managing manure has to be the first step in fly control.  None of the other methods can overcome poor manure management.

Feed through controls.  There are two main brands out available:  Solitude and SimpliFly.  Solitude contains a compound called cyromazine.  Cyromazine is not active until it passes through the intestinal tract and is deposited in the manure.  From there it is eaten by the larval stages causing them to die.  Cyromazine is generally considered safe for all ages of creatures.  SimpliFly contains a compound called diflubenzeron.  This compound is a little trickier to pin down on safety but is generally considered safe for adult animals.  Diflubenzeron prevents the larva from making chitin so they can’t progress in their life stages to adulthood.  The big advantage to feed through control is it delivers the compounds around the farm.  Anywhere your horse “goes” your feed through goes.  They are also very easy to administer since both are in an alfalfa pellet base.

Isn’t there a way to manage flies without chemicals?  Why yes there is I say.  They are called fly predators.  These are tiny relatives of the big wasps we all see.  They selectively lay their eggs inside fly eggs and their kids eat the baby fly.  I love these critters!  They can’t quite keep up their end of the baby making equation so you must spread extras around every month to keep up.  Fly predators do a pretty darn good job as long as proper numbers are used.

I have to add one more management method:  let the cat chase them. I find this to be the most fun of the options even if it isn’t very effective.  If you find flies are driving you and your horses mad, call us for help finding an entomologist who can help you determine the best plan for your property.  And that’s a wrap for this week.  May your litter box always be clean and your food bowl full!