Top 10 Tips to Prepare for Fly Season

Spring and summer, the beautiful, warmer seasons that tend to be most horse-owners favorite time of year, still harbors the headache of dealing with bugs. Whether you participate in horse shows, trail riding, or just finally getting to ride outside without extra layers on, it’s hard to argue that there is a better time of year for riding than in the spring and summer but dealing with flies can seem like a never-ending struggle.

So, how do you keep flies from bothering horses and what are the best ways to prepare for fly season? These top 10 tips will have you well on your way to preparing for fly season:

  1. Know What Time Of Year Fly Season Is
  2. Know When to Start Preparing for Fly Season
  3. Manure Management
  4. Biological Fly Predator Wasps
  5. Fly Curtains for Your Barn
  6. Feed-Through Fly Control
  7. Insect Repellent Misting System
  8. Fly Spray
  9. Fly Masks and UV Protection
  10. Fly Sheets and Fly Boots

From learning the best practices for manure management around your farm, reducing the number of areas flies can lay eggs, and other methods for reducing fly populations around your property, this helpful guide will give you tried and true tips on how to keep your horses from being bothered by flies and bugs.

How and When to Start Preparing for Fly Season

Fly Season Map

Know What Time of Year Fly Season is in Your Area

For most of the United States, fly season starts in the spring and runs through mid-fall when temperatures start dropping.

  • Southern states, such as Flordia, Georgia, and Texas, start seeing insects by March.
  • Eastern states or Mid-West, such as the Carolinas, Kentucky, Ohio, and Indiana, will see their fly populations in full swing by April.
  • Northern and North-West parts of the country with states like Colorado and Montana, can start seeing their fly season a bit later around May.

When to Start Preparing for Fly Season

You want to start preparing for fly season as soon as the temperatures start rising in early spring. You should start working on cleaning up your farm, especially areas with standing water or damp conditions, which is where most fly eggs tend to be laid for many insects.

North America has over 18,000 different types of flies, many of which can carry and spread diseases to animals or people. Flies will lay their eggs on manure, in damp areas, inside trash cans, or in areas with rotting organic material.

Mucky areas near pasture gates where manure, mud, and hay have all been stomped together are often overlooked when it comes to manure management. Using hay bags hung away from gates or high-traffic areas, and raking up any loose hay and manure off the ground can help reduce those mucky areas.

Horse Flies are one of the most dreaded flies for horses and equestrians, as they are large enough that when they bite, you certainly feel it! Your horse can get welts from a Horse Fly bite, due to them drawing blood and causing irritation for many horses at the site. Horse Flies can also carry diseases such as Equine Infectious Anemia. While their life cycle is short, nearly all types of female flies can lay up to 150 eggs in just one batch, laying upwards of five or more batches over just a couple of days!

How to Manage Fles Around Your Farm

Fly Curtains

Manure Management for Reducing Fly Egg Count

One of the easiest ways to cut down on the number of flies on your farm is to reduce the number of eggs that hatch. Having a proper manure management plan is important as you are removing the cozy-looking fly nursery where flies prefer to lay their eggs. Cleaning stalls at least once a day, using clean, dry bedding in stalls, and having your manure hauled away every week, or a manure pile far enough away from your stable or pastures, can help reduce the number of flies in the immediate stabling area where your horses are.

Cleaning your riding arenas or dry-lot paddocks from having manure in them is another way to limit the number of flies bothering your horses during riding or training, along with agitating them while they are standing in smaller paddocks and dry-lots that may become wet and muddy during spring weather. Having the right tools for proper manure management can make the task even easier with the help of pitchforks, and muck buckets or wheelbarrows. Keeping a muck bucket inside a cart with a pitchfork or shovel around grooming areas, riding arenas, and wash racks is a great way to offer a convenient source for quickly picking up manure so that it can be removed from an area easily.

Biological Fly Predator Wasps

Adding in biological methods such as tiny parasitic wasps that feed on fly larvae, is another way you can combat fly populations around your farm. Many horse owners know these by their more common names such as Fly Predators, Fly Parasites, or Fly Eliminators, just to name a few.

Insect control by this method has been used for many years as a more environmentally friendly way to combat flies, without depending on chemical repellents. These wasps lay their eggs inside the fly eggs, killing the fly pupae before they can mature into adult flies. Over time, you get more of these fly-killing tiny wasps and less annoying adult flies.

Not to worry, the name “wasps” can seem like a bad idea, but these little critters are the size of a gnat and are not even noticed around your farm, to you or your horses, and won’t sting you. You simply order these fly parasitic wasps from one of the various suppliers out there that offer these little fly-fighting warriors and follow their guidelines on depositing them around your property on manure piles on their suggested schedule. It is important to keep up with a schedule and be meticulous in your manure-management program, to allow these fly predator wasps the best chance at combating a fly population successfully.

Using Fly Curtains in Your Barn

If you have open doorways from stall doors, windows, and large doors, during the spring and summer months, you can also use fly curtains around your barn. Fly curtains are made from material similar to fly sheets that hang in doorways acting like a screen, allowing airflow and people, horses, and other animals to easily walk through, while greatly reducing the number of insects from easily inviting themselves into your stabling area. These are a great way to keep stabled horses more relaxed in their stalls.

Feed-Through Fly Control: Supplements or Garlic?

Feed-through fly control products are supplements that can be fed to your horse to help them fight off bugs all on their own. Various products contain fly-control ingredients that simply pass through your horse’s digestive system and end up in their manure, on which insects will lay their eggs on. Certain supplements available contain a product that prevents these eggs from allowing larvae to develop, then killing the fly larvae.

The best time to start a feed-through fly control supplement is at least a few weeks prior to fly season. For example, if your weather indicates temperatures will be consistently above 50 degrees for a while, you should start feeding the feed-through supplements to your horse. Some supplements will also contain garlic or apple cider vinegar, which is thought to give off a slight scent through your horse’s skin that naturally deters flies from biting them.

There is an assortment of research out there on these methods, with some pointing to the science behind natural compounds found in garlic that may have health benefits, including deterring flies, while other research feels it may or may not make a drastic difference. However, many horse owners swear by the success they have using feed-through supplements in reducing fly populations or the frequency that they land on their horses.

So, should you just toss some garlic from your kitchen into your horse’s feed? Not quite. Equine supplements designed for fly-control have taken research into consideration to ensure they are using the correct form of garlic and amount in the formulations of their feed-thru supplements. It is recommended to use a supplement designed for horses to make sure your horse isn’t getting too much as high amounts can have negative side effects on horses.

Insect Repellent Misting Systems and Fly Traps

Setting up an insect-repellent misting system in your barn, run-in-sheds, and other areas around the barn is a great way at keeping adult flies and fly eggs under control. You can use battery-operated automatic fly control kits that easily mount in stalls, aisleways, and run-in-sheds using refillable canisters of fly spray repellents. Some farms will install large commercial misting kits that have tubing run through the ceiling into every stall or along aisleways, with a 55-gallon drum of insect repellent solution that pumps through the automatic misters on a programmed schedule.

Flytraps are an easy and more affordable option if adding automatic misters is not in your budget, or you are boarding and unable to add those types of devices to the property. Flytraps come in a variety of options, many utilizing disposable bags that you hang virtually anywhere flies gather near your horse or manure areas, with scented fly-bait inside that attracts adult flies, then trapping them for easy disposal. No matter what form of insect repellent sprays, misting systems, or fly traps you use, these methods can greatly reduce the number of flies in your stabling area and run-in sheds.

How to Keep Flies from Bothering Your Horse

Fly Masks

How Often Should you Fly-Spray Horses and What Types Work the Best

Each product will have instructions on the bottle for how often to apply the fly spray, especially during certain conditions such as rain, when a horse sweats, or after having a bath. With so many options available when it comes to fly sprays for horses, it can be hard to know which one is the best fly spray for horses, and which ones work the best. Some fly sprays can become diluted and wash off your horse from simply sweating or being in the rain, whereas others are developed to stay on your horse’s coat for anywhere from 10 to 17 days, despite sweat or rain, including many oil-based sprays.

Many horse owners apply fly spray at least once a week, with some doing so daily if a horse seems to be bothered by bugs and needs some relief. Wipe-on fly sprays can be beneficial around a horse’s legs especially, as they are typically oil-based and will stay on their coat longer, with greater success.

Applying fly spray before a ride can give you an extra layer of protection when you want to make sure your horse isn’t being distracted from biting insects while you are trying to train, compete, or enjoy a leisurely trail ride. If your horse is in an area with ticks, making sure your fly spray also protects against ticks and other insects like mosquitos can help prevent bites, thus reducing the risk of them catching infectious diseases from those insects, such as West Nile Disease or Lyme/Tick-Borne diseases. Applying those products around their legs, belly, chest, and tail, can help stop ticks from climbing up their legs, ultimately then burrowing into their skin in hidden areas.

Fly Masks and UV Protection

Not much makes you feel worse as a horse owner than going to bring your horse in from the pasture and seeing their face, eyes, ears, and muzzle covered in flies while your horse shakes their head, desperate to get rid of them. This is where a fly mask can become their new best friend! There is a wide range of fly masks styles to work on virtually every horse or pony. From fly masks with or without ears, extra durable for those turned out with playing heard-mates, softer material for the sensitive types, extended eye areas, and sizes from miniature horses, ponies, cob, horses, warmbloods, and even draft horses.

Fly masks also offer UV protection which is important for protecting their eyes from sun damage, as well as those with white markings, pink noses, or light skin that can become sunburned. If a horse has a history of eye conditions, making sure they wear UV protection when outside is crucial. Some fly masks even come with extended nose coverage to offer both fly and UV protection from their ears to the tip of their nose.

Fly Sheets for Horses and Fly Boots for Leg Protection

Fly sheets for horses are a wonderful way of giving your horse relief from biting insects from head to tail. Adding a fly sheet neck cover to match, allows your horse to have coverage from their withers to their poll. With a fly mask and fly boots added, they can be covered from head to toe!

Fly boots are designed to work as a fly sheet or fly mask for horses, but cover most of a horse’s legs, from their knee down to the hairline on their hoof. Using fly boots for horses can reduce stomping, kicking, striking, pawing, and running, from flies relentlessly biting at their legs. Farriers have been known to suggest adding fly boots for horses a horse’s wardrobe, as it can reduce loose shoes or even help prevent lameness from the constant stomping during fly season. If a horse has a cut or wound, adding fly boots can help keep flies from getting into the cut as well. Would you like to know about a great horse hack? Using fly boots over top of bandages or wraps can add a layer of protection for horses that like to chew on their bandages!

While keeping flies at bay can feel like a never-ending battle, these tried and true top 10 methods on how to prepare for fly season, or shall I say, how to survive fly season, are a great way to keep your horses healthier, happy, and fly-free. You no longer have to wonder how to prepare for fly season! Thankfully, Schneiders has everything you need to make it through fly season from fly sprays for horses, fly sheets and fly boots for horses, and the right tools for manure management around the stable.