When it comes to pest control, horse owners need to know and understand their enemies; knowing the times of day/year and areas (both geographical and on the horse’s body) where a pest prefers to attack can be vital. Farriers can often be the ones who suffer the most, as horses blighted by insects can be temperamental, which can jeopardize the farrier's safety.
Good sanitation is a top priority for pest control. Even if adult filth flies manage to lay eggs, the likelihood of survival is slim if the farm is clean, limiting the chance of reproduction. Of course, beneficial insects such as Fly Predators are a key factor in limiting fly populations. If you’re like many barns, however, you may have been caught off guard by a late summer and a burgeoning fly population. In these instances, higher concentrations of beneficial insects such as Spalding Fly Predators, used in conjunction with strategically placed fly traps, may be worthy of consideration.
There are always other factors to consider in the battle against insects, so however clean the farm, extra measures will still need to be taken. These days, both farriers and owners are increasingly resorting to organic insecticide/repellents on horses, which can be a highly effective means of keeping horses comfortable during hoof-care work.
“In these instances, you want the animals to be docile and not bothered by flies. The spray-on or wipe-on repellents may be helpful for a couple hours or sometimes a bit longer, and can be helpful when you really need the horse to be comfortable,” says Roger Moon, professor of entomology, at the University of Minnesota in St. Paul.
Rub-on repellents are not very long lasting but can be quite effective. It is recommended to check the application frequency in order to gain the best effect from them.
Alternative or additional options could be fly boots or leggings to keep horses from being bitten by stable flies, which tend to bite the legs and underside of the horse.
In the instances when you can't prevent insects at their source, it is essential to understand their patterns and behaviors in order to minimize the impact. For example, horse and deer flies bite only during the daytime and especially when the weather is hot. Scheduling shoeing during cool mornings, will mean less chance of horse or deer flies biting the horses and causing stress.
Understanding the geography of your area is also vital. “Black flies need fast running water to reproduce because their larvae live best in that environment,” says Lane Foil, professor of entomology with the Louisiana State University Agricultural Center.
“In Louisiana, we only have slow running streams and a type of fly that breeds in calm water. Some regions have multiple generations each year, but here in Louisiana, we have just one generation of black flies, hatching out in early spring and driving horses crazy for awhile,” says Foil. Becoming aware of geo-targeting and timelines for specific pest species can allow you to plan in advance. Most species of horse, deer and black flies, who bite during day-time, do not travel indoors. During periods of “high fly numbers,” horses should be moved inside and farrier work can be carried out indoors.
Both mosquitoes and midges are frequently the bane of the farrier's and horse owner's existence. They are active from dusk until late into the night, can spread certain viruses – such as the virus that causes vesicular stomatitis – and can also cause allergic reactions.
Mosquito screens can help keep these tiny flies out of stables and barns, so adding screens to stalls and bringing horses inside at sundown should be considered as a protective strategy. Knowing which pest species is likely to become active, and when, can translate into an increasingly proactive stable management strategy.
Moon says the introduction of West Nile virus to North America during the last decade has caused a new emphasis on mosquito control around horses, given West Nile’s potentially lethal impact. “There are a couple of commercial vaccines, and no matter where you live, or what you do for mosquito control and protection for your horses, you should vaccinate,” he says.
There are two species of mosquito that breed in artificial containers that collect rainwater. This could be anything, including old cans, gardening containers, tires, tarps, etc.; anything that holds water long enough to allow a new generation of mosquitoes to emerge.
“Stock tanks and water troughs that are not overturned and cleaned out at about 2 week intervals will have scuds that will support mosquitoes. So we urge people to canvass their place and look for anything that holds water. Our mosquito people tell us if in doubt, pour it out,” says Moon. You may also want to consider using larvicides such as Mosquito Torpedo to target mosquito development in water troughs and the like.
To give horses relief from mosquitoes, permethrin-based repellents may help for a few hours or sometimes up to a few days.
There are a number of different pests that bother horses during the year but, having a good understanding of which ones attack (and when) will help horse owners and farriers to plan accordingly. A strategic mix of beneficial insects, fly traps, larvicides, natural repellents and pesticides, as well as good stable management (sanitation) and pasture to stall rotation– can limit insect and fly attacks and keep the animals as calm as possible, creating a safer working environment for farriers throughout the U.S.
Mosquitos are also a big problem in France...
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