A swarm of deer flies will drive a horse through the fence faster than any thing I know.
There is no one simple answer to controlling flies. They must be managed at all stages of their life cycle. Good pasture, barn and chicken coop management is the first place to start. Be sure you are managing manure properly. Clean the barns, paddocks and fields daily. Move manure away from the places the animals live. Spread it out so it will dry. Dry manure is not attractive to flies for laying eggs. Less hatching flies means less adult biting flies.
In the Barn
- Keep this as clean and dry as possible. Remove wet and soiled bedding daily and replace with clean dry bedding.
- Keep the floors dry and sweep them down daily.
- Knock down those cob webs.
- Wash and dry sweaty tack, horse boots, blankets, halters, buckets, feed buckets, storage areas, muck buckets, wheelbarrows, shovels and forks.
- Keep the hoof trimmings picked up, feed off the floors, and keep feed storage buckets covered.
- Clean and disinfect the floors, stall mats and walls. A good scrubbing with white vinegar and a rinse with water works well. This should be done at least twice a year, in the spring and fall.
- Keep your animals clean and healthy.
- Hang fly tape in places where the flies hang out, up around the rafters is a good place as well as dark corners out of drafts.
In the yard
- Keep the manure picked up daily. (horses, cats, dogs, chickens…all animals)
- Keep the weeds and bushes down.
- Sprinkle the manure pile with DE and keep it spread out until completely dry then pile to compost. Turn the compost pile frequently.
- Hang fly traps away from where animals hang out.
Our next line of defence for these is internal. It’s called feed through fly control. I feed the horses a product called Bug Check. It’s basically grape seed, garlic, brewers yeast and diatomacous earth (DE). This can also be fed to other animals with good success.
This powder controls the hatching of flies in the barn yard and helps to control the flies that wander into the yard to lay their eggs in lovely places for flies. It also breaks the internal cycle of parasites in the animal. Garlic and brewers yeast are a good deterrent to mosquitoes and black flies.
During the summer I also add a splash of cider vinegar to all the animals water buckets. This will raise the Ph of their blood and help deter flies.
The use of fly masks with ear protection and leg wraps on the horses helps both in the field and on trail rides. And also keeping them in the barn in the early morning and evening when black flies and mosquitoes are at their worst. Flies are worst during the heat of day.
A simple fan running to create a draft will keep flies out of the barn.
I also use essential oils, lavender and tea tree are my favorite although there are others that work I always have these handy and use them for other things as well. A couple of drops on the fly mask, halter, collars once a week is all that is needed.
And lastly when the day is very bad I use a home made fly spray.
- old spray bottle (mine is an old fly spray bottle from the tack store)
- cider vinegar
- 10 drops tea tree oil
- 15 drops lavender essential oil
- 20 drops vegetable glycerin
Fill the bottle 2/3rds full with vinegar, fill the rest of the way with water. Add the essential oils and glycerin. The glycerin helps the oil mix with the vinegar and water.
Shake well before using.
Be careful not to get this in their eyes or other sensitive spots. For those areas I spray the mix in my hand and rub it around the area.
This recipe works well on the horses, the dog and us.
Fly repellent for wounds & around bandages
1 Tbl. tea tree oil
3/4 cup distilled or sterile water
spray the area. Tea tree oil is a natural antiseptic and natural insect repellent.
Speaking of ears, you know that white crusty stuff that forms in the horses’ ears during the summer? This is a reaction to the nasty fly bites. A fly mask with ear protection will avoid this. But in case you missed using the mask one day or a pesky field mate (* I won’t mention who does that all the time.) tore it off and dropped it some where down in the lower field, this will help.
- 1 Tbl. tea tree oil
- 4 tbl. shea butter
- 2 tbl. bees wax
Melt the bees wax carefully in the microwave, stir in the shea butter and melt again. Let cool a bit and stir in tea tree oil. Pour into a clean container. Coat the inside of the ear with a thin layer ever other day or so. The ears will clear right up and this also keeps the flys away.
Do not put too much in as it may drip into the ear canal when it is warmed. A thin layer is all that is needed.
And finally encourage your neighbors to practice good fly control if they have animals too.
*I sewed a piece of reflective tape to the fly masks, and after dark I take a flash light and go to find it.