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Shoo fly, don't bother me! Summer time is prime time for
increased numbers of various types of flies that can irritate your
horse and you. Put away that fly swatter because there are
better measures that can be taken to limit the number of flies.
"Stable flies, horse flies, black flies, deer flies, sand flies
and biting midge flies --- so many flies. They all can bite
your horse, draw blood and possibly cause allergic reactions,"
notes Dr. Glennon Mays, clinical associate professor at the Texas
A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical
"Flies will probably not be completely eliminated from your
horse stable," states Mays. "But, there are control measures
that can be put in place to decrease the fly population in your
horse facilities. Since stable flies are one of the most
common summer pests your horse will encounter, I'll focus on this
Stable flies feed on the blood of warm blooded animals, explains
Mays. They pierce the skin with their mouth parts, lacerate
the skin and then inject saliva which contains an anticoagulant
that keeps the blood flowing. The bite can be painful and
irritating. Depending on your horse's skin sensitivity, there
could also be a reaction to the bite. Stable flies usually
feed during the early morning hours and again in the late
afternoon. They also feed selectively preferring the legs and
belly to other areas of your horse's body.
"The female stable fly requires blood meals to produce viable
eggs and surprisingly, eggs are deposited in decaying animal and
plant waste, generally not in fresh manure," notes Mays. "Fly
larvae can develop in stable waste that is a combination of damp
straw and manure, or under hay bales that are in contact with moist
soil. In the warm summer, the entire life cycle from egg to adult
can be completed in three to six weeks."
The hot summer temperatures promote increased fly numbers, but
sound sanitation practices in conjunction with other controls can
decrease fly populations, says Mays. Reduce larvae
development by eliminating the environment where they can
develop. Spread manure and stable bedding regularly so that
it will dry out fast as possible. Modify drainage areas so
that excess water is eliminated.
When stable flies finish feeding, they seek a place to rest and
digest their blood meal. This instinctive habit makes way for
control of adult flies with residual insecticides sprayed on stable
surfaces, explains Mays. Sides of buildings (inside and
outside), stall surfaces and fences are all areas where flies can
be found resting. Residual insecticides can provide fly
control over a period of time. Be sure to follow label
recommendations for use, mixing and spraying.
"Sprays and dusts may be used to protect your horse, but these
usually have short residual effect," notes Mays. "Repellents
containing DEET are better suited for mosquitoes rather than
The number of flies produced by a pair of stable flies and their
offspring in the summer months is in the millions. Therefore,
it is best to establish good fly control practices. A sound
sanitation program is the first step needed to decrease stable fly
populations at your horse facilities.
"It will take a combination of controls to decrease stable fly
numbers. You need to implement measures to decrease fly
breeding and larvae hatching. Any stable flies that make it
through these stages should be chemically controlled with residual
insecticides and direct animal applications," explains Mays.
Knowledge of some basic stable fly facts in addition to good
stable management practices will help you to have a winning chance
against the pesky stable fly.
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