If you’ve spent any time outdoors or around a horse stable lately, you’ve probably noticed that it seems like pest flies are everywhere. It’s not your imagination. There really are more house flies, stable flies, face flies and horn flies around than last year. And many Virginia residents wonder how to get rid of flies that seem to be coming from every turn.
Dr. Leslie Easterwood is a clinical assistant professor at Texas A&M University College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences. She works in the large animal clinical sciences department and insists that fly infestation risks increase during the summer months and that the summer of 2012 is shaping up to be a particularly buggy one.
“Last year it was dry and hot so it didn’t seem quite as bad, but this year we’ve had rain and the temperatures haven’t been as high so there seems to be an increase,” said Dr. Easterwood.
Flies aren’t just disturbing to us. There are a variety of fly species that prey upon animals, including livestock, horses and even your family pet. Anyone who has ever seen what flies on dog ears look like can agree- they’re not anything to be taken lightly.
Flies can cause a lot of problems with animals. Yes, they are annoying, and can lead to animals hurting themselves by trying to get away from their tormenters, but they can also cause illness. Frequently, flies will congregate around an animal’s face, and drink the fluids that they secrete from their eyes, nose and mouth. Because flies carry bacteria on their feet, this can be deposited into sensitive body areas. Some species even lay eggs on the host animal’s hair or in their soft tissues, leading to horrifying consequences.
One of the worst are horse flies, which can be even more dangerous to an animal than the ordinary house fly or stable fly. Horse flies can grow to ten times the size of an average house fly and are capable of transferring more diseases than even the stable fly, including Equine Infectious Anemia, a potentially fatal disease that affects horses.
For these reasons, Easterwood says that getting rid of flies should be a priority for anyone who owns animals, particularly horses. She stresses that it’s imperative that fly control should include the entire body of the animal, including the face, to prevent the sores, irritation, bacterial transmission and diseases that are associated with pest flies.
Most veterinarians recommend a round of treatment that includes ointments and sprays to help repel flies. Ointments are easy to use-just apply it to a cloth and then wipe the animal’s eyes with it. Fly repellent can be purchased either in the veterinarian’s office or over the counter. Easterman cautioned that many repellents claim to be effective for much longer than they actually are.
If you’re seeing an increase in pest flies this summer (and you probably are) it would probably be wise for you to give some thought to trying to reduce the fly population on your property instead of focusing strictly on repellents. There are a range of organic pest control options that are safe to use around animals, including fly strips and the humble fly trap.
By the time your animals are being pestered by flies, those insects may have already laid hundreds of eggs, each capable of growing into an adult who is capable of laying hundreds more. The key to superior fly control isn’t necessarily trying to keep existing flies at bay, but preventing them from ever becoming a nuisance in the first place.
When it comes to flies get rid of everything you know and look at it from a different viewpoint. The goal shouldn’t be keeping them off of your animals. It should be preventing them from continuing the life cycle. Every fly that you kill, whether it’s through the use of fly traps, tape, pesticides or beneficial insects is one less fly that’s able to lay hundreds of eggs. Beneficial insects like fly parasites or predators are a wonderful way to keep populations under control naturally, without spraying and rubbing a lot of chemicals into your animals’ faces.
One thing’s for sure, as long as there are flies there will be fly-ridden summers like the one we’re going through now. Take some extra time this season to protect your livestock and your pets from bad bugs before it’s too late.