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News

Fly Contraptions


2015/07/03




By Tommy Brannon

Have you ever noticed that when you park your truck near the barn and  leave the window open, horse flies and green head flies get trapped on the inside of the windshield? They buzz around, but may not be able to escape. The fact is that these blood sucking flies are attracted to large objects like your truck or your horse and will usually fly up to escape danger. This is the reasoning behind fly traps.

There are several commercial fly traps available, as well as plans for the do-it-yourselfer to make one.  While house flies, aka filth flies, are attracted to manure, garbage and other stinky stuff, blood sucking, biting Horse Flies and greenhead flies (aka deer flies) are attracted to livestock, humans and other warm blooded animals. These flies need a blood meal to feed the 300 to 10,000 eggs that they lay. Only the female horse fly bites so that she can feed her eggs. The males feed on plant nectar.

Horse flies and greenheads are in the family Tabanidae and there are thousands of species worldwide, with about 30 species in the mid-south. Some are attracted to the horse’s legs and some to the upper body or head of the horse. They are visually attracted to a moving animal, rather than by scent as other types of flies are; so scent-masking fly repellent sprays have little to no effect.

Each species has a relatively short life span in the adult stage. Different species emerge from the pupal stage at different times in the summer, so there are plenty of horse flies to pester us and our horses throughout the season. They are more than just pests; biting flies spread Equine Infections Anemia (EIA), the disease that is detected by the Coggins test.

Horse owners use a variety of devices to try to control these pesky biting flies.Insecticides, including automatic barn spray systems, can be helpful fly control inside the barn, but insecticides do not discriminate between harmful and beneficial insects, such as honey bees. Insecticides are not practical or affordable for use in a pasture. Insect species can develop a resistance to specific insecticides in just a few generations.

Biting flies are more prevalent in bright sunlight, so keeping horses in a dark shelter or barn in the daytime and out grazing at night is one practical way to give your horses some relief. Keeping them up in the daytime does require manure disposal and odor control in your barn. A clean odor free stall is also part of a regimen to control pesky, barn and house/filth flies that are attracted to manure. 

Tall grass is used by horseflies to hide from the predators, so keeping pastures mowed can help reduce the population of horse flies. Birds and some insects are predators to horse flies and greenheads.

Fly masks, fly sheets and fly leg covers can help protect from bites while horses are grazing in the daytime. A fly croup cover worn while riding may prevent your trail horse from becoming a rodeo saddle bronc when biting horse flies bite the middle of the rump.

Fly traps are one way to reduce the fly populations in a pasture. They take advantage of the instinct of the fly to bite large, moving warm blooded animals. These fly traps can look to the fly like a horse. The fly quickly flies into the trap and rarely escapes. Following are some commercially available fly traps. One can also find do-it-yourself plans for making fly traps by searching the Internet.

Epps Biting Fly Trap™
 Biting flies tend to circle the host before actually landing to bite. The Epps Trap takes advantage of these behaviors by providing a large, contrasting surface area, with transparent areas (which are clear plastic deflectors) representing air space between an animal’s legs and over its back, through which the flies would normally circle before feeding. 
Flies see the deflectors as open spaces and try to fly through. Then they hit the deflectors and ricochet into the soapy water in the trays below. Dish soap is added to the water in the trays to cause the flies to be wetted and drown faster. Studies have shown that the unit covers an average of 20 acres and 1 pound of biting flies each day. For more information, contact Horseline Products 1-800-208-4846.

The HORSE PAL® fly trap 
 The trap consists of marine grade canvas, fiberglass screening, polyester and epoxy coated steel legs, and other stainless steel and zinc plated parts. It is approximately the height of a horse. A large black ball is suspended from the poles and the top is covered in the canvas and fiberglass screening. An inverted mason jar sits on top of the device. Horse Flies are attracted to the ball, simulating a horse’s rump; they get trapped in the Mason jar and die from the heat. The jar unscrews to clean out the dead flies.  

The Nzi Trap (build it yourself)
 Nzi (EN-zee) trap (‘nzi' is the Swahili word for ‘fly') Originally designed to trap the dreaded tsetse fly in Africa, it works by attracting flies to large blue and black objects. Once they get inside this configuration of cloth and netting, they can't find their way back out and they die in the collector. The trap is made with fabric, 3 metal posts, a fishing pole, a clear, liter plastic soda bottle, wire, string, and duct tape. It is triangular in shape and uses blue cloth to attract the flies. A web search on the NZI fly trap will bring up several websites with a material list and plans. You can get a manufactured one from Rincon-Vitova Insectaries. 800-248-2847 http://www.rinconvitova.com 

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