It’s May, and soon proliferates the bane of a horseman or horsewomans’ life. Barn flies. They stomp, they fuss, they’ll even kick with irritable temper. The distraction can make it nearly impossible to train, shoe, bandage… forget bonding, that becomes a joke when you’re both swatting and fidgeting. As if the regular black flies aren’t bad enough, those green headed horseflies will put a hole right through the skin, drawing blood!
If you’ve committed to a more natural approach to horse (and your own) care, you are loath to resort to insecticides, toxic feed supplements or chemicals. But it’s so very tempting right now…as you sit at the doctors getting your cornea detachment treated, caused by a desperate tail switch…
Fear not, there’s relief to be had, against those pesky bugs!
Here’s a nice homemade fly wipe:
- One cup raw apple cider vinegar or any vinegar
- One cup plain Listerine
- 1/4 cup Kyolic liquid garlic (a little garlic is not a bad feed additive, but racehorse folk, be alerted, it IS a blood thinner, perhaps not so good internally for race induced pulmonary hemorrhage. (“bleeders”)
- 20 drops peppermint essential oil
- 20 drops tea tree oil
- 20 drops citronella (Don’t use cedar or pine oil as they may blister over time. (Leave out citronella after August, as it will draw yellow jackets though the autumn, although very effective at other times.)
- 2 cups liquid coconut oil
- 1 tablespoon dish soap
Store in a cool place. Put enough in a can with a tight lid to fully soak a cloth and use this rag as a wipe.
To make this into an effective fly spray instead:
Use 2 cups vinegar and 2 cups listerine, and only 1 Tablespoon Coconut oil. Shake well before spraying.
Another interesting spray to try around the barn: Mix 1/3 each of Epsom salt, mouthwash, and beer, use a spray bottle or even easier, use a pump sprayer. (Drink leftover beer separately afterwards 😀)
Additional barn fly control tactics:
- 1. Keep the flies, gnats and mosquitoes down by looking out for standing water, ivy which holds water, and keeping manure away from the barn.
- 2. Of course equine and barn cleanliness goes without saying.
- 3. Physical barriers. Fly masks, and fly sheets are super. and let’s not forget the good ole Sticky fly strips! (Keep them away from the spiders though) There’s also now cool livestock curtains sold at Chicks’ Saddlery Livestock Curtain: Chicks Discount Saddlery
- 4. If you have barn swallows in your stables, you have a great way to trim your bug population. A single Barn Swallows can catch 60 insects per hour or about 850 daily. It’s so pleasing to watch them raise their chicks in the rafters and teach them to fly. Here’s how to encourage this migratory bird to return to your stable every year. Help the swallows by setting up nests They’re most welcome in May as you see them dart happily around the barn to and fro.
- 5. Don’t underestimate bats in the evening. One quick hungry bat can eat 1,200 insects an hour and 6 to 8 thousand bugs in a night.
- 6. Lastly there’s insects that eat insects! Eww! Actually they help a lot when put in the manure piles regularly here’s one company Rincon-Vitova supplies fly parasites for biocontrol of flies
- 7. In a pinch, there’s always that little trick if you can find some of this plant that I wrote about previously.
Your barn ecosystem:
Having written all this, Even when occasionally spraying with non toxic mixes, it seems our barn swallows and bats stuck around at Rosecroft. There’s always plenty of bugs to go around. If not, because you’ve completely killed any particular entity in your “barn ecosystem” with toxic chemicals, you’ve now disturbed the balance of nature in so many negative ways. Think of the predators such as eagles, foxes and the harmless black snakes that can suffer and die from eating contaminated prey such as pigeons, rats or mice. Think of the disturbing nighttime silence at creek side when the “peepers”…which are such a happy harbinger of warmer weather, are no longer heard.
That’s what horsetails are for…
PS: Stay Tuned for an upcoming book on natural remedies, subscribe and follow along! …if you will…