Tis the season, as they say. No, I'm not talking about Christmas. I'm talking about flies. And mosquitos. And tiny biting things you can barely see.
Our horses eyes are watering, swelling and obviously itching. And there's no nice way to write about these aggravating pests that torture both our horses and ourselves as we try to navigate the early summer into the fall.
Horse Flies, Stable Flies, Face Flies, Oh My!
There are multiple types of flies attacking us. House flies, Musca domestica, and Face Flies, Musca autumnalis, feed on eye secretions, nasal discharge, wounds, manure and moist areas around horses' genitalia. Stable flies, Stomoxys calcitrans, are biting flies that use a piercing mouth part to fee on blood and usually aim at horses' lower limbs and bellies. Horn flies are the ones chewing on the neighbor's cattle but may not be too proud to visit our horses as well.
Face flies and stable flies are usually around in the spring and summer and our old friends the house fly tends to be around for the hotter months, but here in Texas they breed year around even though they hibernate in cooler temperatures.
And let's not forget the biting gnats, Culicoides. According to AAEP, their preferred biting sites vary; some feed near the mane and tail, while others prefer the abdomen, legs or face. They are weak fliers, don't travel far and are most active at sunset.
Flies Spread Disease
Potential diseases from our winged friends include summer soars, eye worms, pigeon fever, equine infectious anemia, hives, Onchocerciasis: the immature forms (microfilariae) of this worm are found in horses' skin (often at the midline of the abdomen); adults reside in the nuchal ligament of the neck. The microfilariae cause skin irritation that results in scales, crusts, ulceration, hair loss and skin pigmentation loss.
Grossed out yet? Me too. That said, there are several ways to combat these creatures and prevent the diseases they bring.
- Quickly remove manure, excess feed, wet straw/hay and other organic debris.
- Locate manure sites as far from stables as possible, or move them off property. Flies can travel miles to find your horse.
- Modify paddocks, stalls and watering systems to avoid water accumulation.
- Mow, because flies often rest in shady areas of vegetation.
- Use horse protection, such as fly masks, sheets and boots; strong fans; and fly repellent sprays and spot-on treatments.
These are just a few examples of ways to manage the flies, etc that are making us all crazy this time of year.
*Our fly tip of the week: Equiderma Horse Spray seems to be working better than most other things at the moment. At least that's our experience in Central Texas this month.