Thinking about mosquitoes can make even the bravest of us feel a little uneasy. These blood-sucking, winged insects are a well-known nuisance but, their potential for harm doesn't stop there. In simple terms, mosquitoes transmit diseases – not just to horses but to humans and other animals too – and therefore installing effective control methods around your barn is more than just sensible – it can be lifesaving.
As the warmer seasons approach, the barn and surrounding area become an ideal breeding ground for mosquitoes. Within the United States. there are more than 200 species of mosquito, but only adult females actually feed on blood. The life cycle begins with eggs laid upon the surface of standing water (such as a pond or trough) which develop rapidly and hatch within 48 hours. Certain species of mosquito can take up to a month to fully mature while others reach adulthood in as little as 72 hours. Upon hatching, they are generally raring for a meal. Mosquitoes are not easily spotted while dining. You will rarely find a mosquito actually resting on your horse, but you may instead find raised, irritated skin displaying symptoms of hives and itching where the mosquito has bitten the skin and injected a toxin, to which many horses can react. The mosquito will then feed on the blood of the horse, leaving this area itchy and susceptible to further damage when the horse rubs the wound, further enabling bacteria to reach your horse's blood stream.
The main concern, however, is the transmission of more serious illnesses through the exchange of blood and saliva in the bite. Mosquitoes are known as carriers of some of the most concerning and potentially fatal diseases in humans, such as malaria and in horses, such as: West Nile Virus and Eastern and Western Equine Encephalomyelitis (WEE /EEE).
West Nile Virus and Eastern and Western Equine Encephalomyelitis are serious conditions carried by mosquitoes and introduced into the bloodstream of the horse through bites. Signs of these largely incurable illnesses include anything from loss of appetite, fever, weakness and neurological abnormalities through to full collapse and death. Veterinarians strongly advise vaccinating against these diseases, owing to the serious nature of their prognoses and the prevalence of mosquitoes. However, even if your horse is safeguarded from these illnesses, you will still want to protect your horse from the irritation triggered by bites and the potential for allergic responses.
It is recommended that every horse owner in a mosquito-prone area takes measures to reduce their horse’s contact with these potentially dangerous pests. We have gathered some tried-and-tested ideas to help you get rid of mosquitoes in your barn and pasture:
For more information on why and how to control mosquitoes, consult Spalding’s handy article on What You Need to Know About Mosquitoes to Not Have Them.
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