I HATE FLIES.
We’ve all said this, right? And I’m sure our horses would shout it from the barn tops if they could. Try as we might, it just seems those pesky critters won’t go away.
The truth is, flies have their purpose (other than to annoy the crud out of us). Many fly species are natural decomposers. Their larvae help to break down organic matter, including the tissue of dead organisms (gross, I know, but necessary).
But flies hang out around our barns for two specific reasons: manure and horses. Some just want to lay their eggs in and feed on the manure while other species are like little vampires—they want to feed on your horse!
To rid the world of flies would be an impossible feat (and one with some fairly disgusting consequences), but there are some things we can do to keep them away from our horses and barns.
Of course, there are dozens of chemical fly sprays we can use, but they can be even more harmful than the flies themselves. (For instance, many brands use permethrin, which can be fatal to cats and fish and is also highly toxic to bees and other beneficial insects). Not always such a great idea.
So instead, I’d like to offer 15 safer ways to ward off flies:
1. Natural Fly Spray
There are many recipes for making DIY fly sprays using essential oils such as citronella, lavender, eucalyptus, geranium, neem, peppermint, and lemongrass. (See this blog post for a few of them.)
2. Plant Fly-Deterring Flowers
Marigolds and geraniums around your barn or pasture can help keep flies at bay. (If you plant in your pasture, make sure they’re the species safe for horses—Calendula officials and Geranium maculate.)
Keep your pastures cut short. Shorter grass means less insects will hang out in it.
4. Manage manure
This is a biggie. Keeping manure picked up from stalls and even pastures will eliminate a major food source as well as breeding grounds for flies. But in order to keep the flies away from the manure permanently, you will need to have it shipped off site and/or composted.
5. Fly traps
Use traps or non-chemical fly baits in the barn.
Fun Fly Fact #1: Not all flies are pests. Some eat other pest insects and some even pollinate.
Moving air in the barn keeps flying insects away.
7. Fly predators
These are a tiny insect species that feed on fly larvae. You can purchase them from companies such as Spalding Labs.
Consider feeding garlic granules or powder, apple cider vinegar, and/or food grade diatomaceous earth (DE). These all help to deter flies and DE is even said to kill larvae in manure.
9. Fly masks
Protect your horse’s face since flies like to feed on eye secretions (eww).
10. Mesh leg coverings
This is another area biting flies like to feast on.
Fun Fly Fact #2: Flies lay their eggs in their food source. Yum!
11. Fly sheets
Fly sheets are especially helpful for older horses and those with compromised immune systems (whom flies seem to be even more attracted to).
12. Moisture control
Flies also love to lay eggs in moist (don’t you just love that word?) areas. Clean up wet stall bedding, grass clippings from mowing, etc. It’s also a good idea to fill in holes or low spots where water tends to collect in your pasture.
13. Go au naturel
Don’t trim your horse’s fetlocks, manes, or tails. Your horse’s hair is his first defense against biting flies.
14. Brushing not always bueno
Resist the urge to brush your horse every time he gets a nice layer of mud or dirt on his back. This is natural fly protection!
Fun Fly Fact #3: Adult flies live for about a month and can produce up to 2,000 eggs in their lifetime.
Consider keeping a flock free-ranging hens. They love to feast on flies and their larvae!
About the Author
Casie Bazay is a freelance and young adult writer, as well as an owner/barefoot trimmer and certified equine acupressure practitioner. She hosts the blog, The Naturally Healthy Horse, where she regularly shares information on barefoot, equine nutrition, and holistic horse health. Once an avid barrel racer, Casie now enjoys just giving back to the horses who have given her so much.