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Barn Fly Control


By Tommy Brannon

It is fly season in the Mid-South and every horse and horse owner is looking for some relief from those biting flies. In addition to flies, as the sun goes down, mosquitoes come out in full force. Mosquitoes are the vector for a West Nile Virus, which can be deadly to horse and human. 

Every horse owner has tried various fly repellents. Most horse owners who want to keep the flies out of their barns keep the stalls cleaned out and dark, but one sure way to get rid of the pesky insects is to kill them. An automatic fly spray system installed in the barn will do just that. There are several manufacturers of these in fly spray systems: Auto Mist, Shoo-Fly, Bug Stomper, and Pyranha are a few of the makers of systems available on the market. Each of these manufacturers has their own chemical formula that uses highly diluted Pyrethrins to kill and repel insects. These pyrethrins are the active ingredient in Pyrethrum.

Pyrethrum is plant oil produced by the flowers and seeds from a species of the Chrysanthemum (Chrysanthemum cinerariaefolium) to protect itself from insects. This specific flower is native to southwestern Asia, but is now grown commercially in many places throughout the world. The six esters known collectively as pyrethrinsare found within the pyrethrum extract. Pyrethroid is synthetic Pyrethrin.

Pyrethrins are non-persistent, biodegradable, and break down on exposure to UV light or oxygen.  Because of this non-persistence, pyrithrin’s main ingredient pyrethrum does not enter the food chain, as has been the case with some synthetic insecticides. No insect population has ever developed a significant resistance to pyrethrum.  It is low in acute toxicity to humans, horses and other vertebrate animals. 

Pyrethrins are neurotoxins that attack the nervous systems of all insects. When present in amounts not fatal to insects, they still appear to have an insect repellent effect. The EPA has approved pyrethrins for broad spectrum applications. It is very important to follow label directions and use the proper dilution rate to keep it to a non toxic rate for mammals. In this case, just because some is good, more is not better. One caveat: as it is a broad spectrum insecticide it will kill beneficial insects, such as predator wasps, bees and spiders (arachnoids), as well as the pest insects.

 The barn fly spray systems usually consist of a storage barrel for the insecticide, an electric pump, a timer, and a set of spry nozzles and tubing. They are easy to install, requiring no special plumbing or electrician skills. In addition to systems for barns, there are similar systems for kennels, garages, swimming pool decks, and patios. Pyranha also has an odor control absorber solution that, when added to the spray, will eliminate manure and other barn odors. This is particularly helpful for commercial stables where not everyone may appreciate the smells associated with horses.

The Mid-South Horse Review interviewed several horse owners who have installed theses systems in their barns to get their take on barn insect control

Stewart Howard of Millington, TN has the Pyranha system in two of his barns. In his large 14,000 sq. ft. barn, he uses a 55-gallon drum. In the smaller 800 sq. ft. barn, an 30-gallon drum. He said that he could not manage without it. He also uses it to control fleas and ticks in the barnyard. He said that he used to walk in the yard and his legs would be black with fleas. “Now there are no fleas, mites, or flies; no wasps or spiders in the barns either. No need to clean out cobwebs.” He said that his Pyranha system has a solid state timer that can be programmed to spray not only at various time intervals, but also spray timing duration. He added that he had tried to use a substitute chemical mixture other than Pyranha once just to save money, but he was disappointed. “It didn’t work, “he said “There is very little maintenance. In the winter we just drain the hoses”

Jimmy and Tempe Chancellor of Germantown, TN have carriage horses. They have a Bug Stomper system in their barn, as does the Germantown Charity Horse Show arena.  Jimmy said that when he was president of the Germantown Charity Horse Show, the Bug Stomper system was already in place in the show barns. Maintenance was done annually by Bug Stomper before each year’s horse show.  Jimmy said that he installed his system himself when he had his barn built. He and his wifeactually lived in the barn’s apartment living quarters fly free while his new house was under construction. He said that he only has to fill the 30-gallon drum twice a year.

Laurie Cooper, a well known barrel racer from Humboldt, TN, has a Pyranha system and is also a Pyranha dealer. This is the second barn in which she has had a fly spray system installed. Her present barn has 4 large 26-foot stalls and is a very open design, making the system less effective than in a closed barn, but it still works well. She did the installation herself and it uses about 55 gallons per season. She said that she does not winterize it, but in our climate that has not been a problem. She just cuts back on the number of times it sprays and, thus, does not need to flush it. She added that she once tried another product in the system, but it was not effective.

Jim Gallagher raises Thoroughbred brood mares and foals on his farm in Hickory Wythe, TN. He has a Pyranha system. He said the he and his wife installed it themselves about four months after they built the barn in 2000.  He said it was very easy to install and required very little maintenance. “Just flush it out in the winter using non-toxic antifreeze for RV’s. We had a lot of babies kept up in the barn when we installed it.” he said “I believe the cleaner the barn, the healthier the livestock and the people who work there. In July and August, the flies, wasps, mud daubers, and mosquitoes took over the barn ” He installed  the Pyranha system because he was so pleased with Pyranha’ s fly spray that comes in cans. “That fly spray is oil based,” he said “And is effective for several days, while the water based repellents are sweated off in a few hours. With the Pyranha system we do not have wasp nests or spider webs. When it comes down to the health of the help and the horses, it’s hard to put a price on that.”

For additional information visit these websites.,

For information about the Chrysanthemum, visit

Photo credit: Kentucky Horse Park Barn photo by Ryan Rehnborg

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