Banish Barn Flies With These Simple Steps

This article is part of our Fight the Flies Awareness Campaign, brought to you by UltraShield.

Help your horse escape those pesky flies. Petr Bonek/

Are you tired of swatting flies every time you step into your barn? Are those pesky insects driving your livestock up the wall (literally)? It’s time to put up your dukes and fight back! Flies may be small, but they can cause big problems for your animals and your sanity. Fortunately, there are plenty of strategies you can use to combat flies and reclaim your barn as a fly-free zone.

Flies are not just a nuisance, though they are indeed your horses’ most annoying pest. Flies represent a health threat, too, as they’re highly effective at spreading diseases, including influenza, equine infectious anemia, pigeon fever (dryland distemper), salmonella, and vesicular stomatitis (a virus that causes painful mouth ulcers).

Then, too, your horses’ constant shoo-fly stamping can loosen shoes and aggravate impact-related injuries, such as arthritis and ringbone.

If fly infestations are severe enough, they can even cause horses to lose weight because of interrupted grazing time and lost sleep or result in injuries as insect-crazed animals attempt to seek relief.

Effective barn management is essential to combat flies and keep your animals healthy and comfortable. Here are some tips to help you manage flies in your barn:

Your First Line of Defense…

…against flies is good stable management. There are several things you can do to discourage flies from setting up camp in your barn area in the first place. Use these tips to fight the flies and provide your horse relief.

Manage Manure

Houseflies, your horses’ most common fly pest, are drawn to fresh droppings. This is where they prefer to mate and lay eggs, the resulting larvae feast on the feces. To keep that from happening, clean your horses’ stalls and pens daily, removing the manure to an off-site location once a week if possible, or covering the pile with a heavy tarp for later removal. Along the same vein, soiled bedding is a fly haven, so be sure to clean out any old bedding along with manure. Your horse will thank you as well!

Minimize Moisture

Several fly species prefer wet areas for breeding as well as drinking. Keep stalls dry; eliminate standing puddles around your horses’ living areas; get rid of unused water receptacles, no-longer-used buckets and feeders, etc. At the same time, consider how to make your manure pile a less desirable breeding place for flies. Turning it often and piling it vertically will help trap heat and dissuade flies from laying eggs.

Cover Consumables 

Many horse feeds might be desirable for flies, so keep a lid on it. Cover feed barrels, trash cans, and anywhere that might encourage flies to hang out. Keep grain buckets and feeders cleaned out and free of debris, as they are inviting places for flies.

Best Keep it Breezy

Using fans can help keep air circulating which can inhibit a fly’s ability to land on your horse. Stall fans also offer your horse a reprieve from the heat, as well as making it harder for flies to bother him. Along with fans, if you’re able to install an overhead spray system, you might find it very effective. These systems are designed to spray fly repellent throughout the day, and mist down on your horse and his living area.

Cover Him Up

If all other fly management methods aren’t producing the desired results, give your horse some relief with a well-fitted fly sheet and mask. Some horses are extra sensitive to bug bites, and a quality fly sheet can provide your horse with the coverage they need to protect them from this irritant. Ensure that the sheet is fit to your horse, and doesn’t rub or pull, causing further discomfort.

Trap or Control

When it comes to fly management, there are many options for fly traps on the market currently. Most of these traps rely on baiting flies in and trapping them in a container or on a sticky substance. These can be effective in enclosed areas where flies are prevalent. Other options include biological controls, made up of tiny, parasitic wasps that are harmless to humans and animals. You’ll release these fly predators every three to four weeks. These kill fly eggs before they are able to hatch. With this method, you’ll need to apply fly spray cautiously as to not kill the good bugs.


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