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2003/09/05

Horse Flies Can Be Serious Pest To Your Animal by Jeffery D. Via, Shelby County (Tenn.) Extension Agent I have been receiving calls on horse flies so I thought I would address this issue. According to Lee Townsend, Extension Entomologist with the University of Kentucky, horse flies are bloodsucking insects that can be a serious pest to your animal. Once on a host, they use their knife-like mouthparts to slice the skin and feed on the blood pool that is created. Bites can be very painful. The number of flies and the intensity of their attack very from year to year. Numerous painful bites from large populations of these flies interfere with the grazing of your horse. they may even injure themselves as they run to escape these flies. Female horse flies are active during the day. These flies are apparently attracted to such things as movement, shiny surfaces, carbon dioxide, and warmth. They can be a serious nuisance around swimming pools. They may be attracted by the shiny surface of the water or by movement of the swimmer. There are no effective recommendations to reduce the problem. Male flies feed on nector and are of no consequence as animal pests. The larvae of the horse fly develops in the mud along pond edges, stream banks, wetlands or seepage areas. Females lay batches of 25 to 1000 eggs on vegetation that stand over the above sites. The larvae that hatch from these eggs fall to the ground and feed upon decaying organic matter or small organisms in the soil or water. The larvae stage usually lasts from one to three years depending on the species. Mature larvae crawl to drier areas to palpate and ultimately emerge as adults. Permethrin-based sprays are labeled for application for horses. These insecticides are very irritating to the flies and cause them to leave almost immediately after landing. Often, the flies are not in contact with the insecticide long enough to be killed so they continue to be an annoyance. These flies will swarm persistently around animals and feed where the spray coverage was not complete (underbelly or legs) or where it has worn off. Repeated applications may be needed. Check the label about minimum retreatment intervals. Pyrethrin sprays also are effective but do not last as long as permethrin. Horse flies like sunny areas and usually will not enter barns or deep shade. If animals have access to protection during the day, they can escape the constant attack of these annoying pests. They can graze at night when the flies are not active. It is difficult to impossible to locate and/or eliminate the breeding site of horse flies. They breed in environmentally sensitive wetlands so effects of drainage or insecticide application on non-target organisms or water supplies is a concern. Also, these insects are strong fliers that can move in from some distance away. Breeding sites may be very extensive or some distance away from where problems are occurring

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