Horse flies are a common nuisance for horses and cattle. Female horse flies land on livestock and make painful cuts in their skin to draw blood. Unfortunately, horse flies are notoriously difficult to control, but you have a few options including physical traps, chemicals and home remedies.
Use Traps to Catch Horse Flies
1. Invest in a physical trap.
Nontoxic physical traps work best in areas with a lot of livestock, people, or important plants. Here are some physical trap options that are effective against horse flies:
- Light traps. The lights on these traps are especially chosen to attract unwanted insects. When the insect lands on the light, it is either trapped on glue cards or zapped and killed instantly.
- Flypaper. This paper contains an adhesive that both attracts and traps house flies and horse flies.
- Flies-be-Gone fly trap. This trap holds fly food in a plastic bag for bait. The fly must enter the bag through funnel. Once inside the bag, the fly cannot escape.
- Horse Pal fly trap. These large traps have a target specifically designed to attract primarily visual hunters such as horse and deer flies. When the flies approach the target and see that it is not prey, they get trapped in the metal portion of the trap and die from the heat of the sun on the trap.
2. Make your own trap.
- Hang the chair or stool from the ceiling of your shed or other place where horse flies congregate.
- Attach a dark colored, medium-sized ball to a rope. Attach the rope to the bottom of the chair or stool so that the ball dangles down.
- Attach Flypaper to the bottom of the chair or stool. Every few hours, start the ball swinging. Because horse flies are attracted to dark color and movement, they will be attracted to the ball.
- When they fly over and see that it is not interesting, they’ll fly upwards and get caught on the paper.
Get Rid of Horse Flies with Chemicals
1. Pick a chemical. Certain chemicals are just about as effective as others. To prevent insect resistance, it’s a good idea to rotate different chemicals when you treat the area. Possibilities include:
- Pyrethroids (cypermethrin, fenvalerate, permethrin, resmethrin, tetramethrin, s-bioallethrin, sumithrin);
- Organophosphates (coumaphos, dichlorvos, malathion, tetrachlorvinphos)
- Organochlorines (lindane, methoxychlor)
2. Treat your livestock directly. Always double-check that the chemical you’re using is safe to apply directly to livestock. Then:
- Use a small mist blower or a handheld mist sprayer to mist the chemical over your animals.
- If your animals are spooked by the sprayer, then dip a sponge or a mitt in the chemicals and rub the sponge or mitt on your animals.
- Always wear rubber gloves. Never let these chemicals come into contact with your skin.
3. Apply insecticides to areas around your property. Spray a resting areas or barns around the eaves, walls, ceiling and and rafters.
- Always remove your livestock from the barn before you spray. Some of your animals may have to stay outside for a while. Just follow the directions on the packaging.
- Coarsely spray resting areas with insecticides. Make sure to spray under low pressure.
- Be careful not to contaminate your animals’ water and feed buckets. Also, keep the spray off of your farm equipment.
4. Spray a large area that will protect multiple properties. Spraying a big area is efficient; it won’t require too much time or labor. However, area sprays tend to have a short-lived effect.
- Use aircraft, loggers, hydraulic sprayer or mist blowers to dispense the chemicals.
- The find chemical droplets will travel to where flies live, killing the insects.
Unverified Home Remedies
1. Mix a cup of ivory liquid dish soap with a gallon of water. Spray flies with the solution. The soap will suffocate the flies without being harmful to the plants and animals on your property.
2. Mix 5 cups water, 1 cup lemon-scented dish soap, 1 cup lemon-scented ammonia, and 1 cup mint flavored mouthwash. Mix in gallon jug. Pour into garden sprayer and spray on grass and shrubs. This solution is harmless to plants but repels horseflies, as well as other biting insects.
Prevent Horse Flies and Provide Relief for Animals
1. Keep your animal areas clean. Clean up manure, old bedding and spilled feed. If needed, you can spray your manure pile with insecticide to keep larvae from developing.
2. Eliminate standing water near your livestock. Build proper drainage systems and eliminate buckets of standing water. Cover your pool or pond at the peak of horse fly season.
3. Trim weeds and tall grasses. Horse flies can find a suitably moist and cool breeding ground in tall grasses and weeds. Insects sometimes also retreat to shady vegetated areas during hot parts of the day. To avoid this, keep your grasses trimmed and weed on a regular basis, especially along ditches.
4. Provide a shaded, sheltered area for pets and livestock. A barn, stable or doghouse will give your animals a place to retreat when horse flies are bothering them outdoors. Make sure that windows and doors are screened to prevent horse flies from entering.
5. Apply ear nets, face masks and repellant tags or tapes to your animals.
6. Perform annual rituals like castration during the winter season. The fly population should be minimal at that time, which will prevent horse flies from flocking toward the animals’ wounds.
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