Insect And Pest Control

Controlling Flying Insects and Pests

Insects and pests are the cause of a lot of irritation in horses. Insects tend to infest poorly nourished, unhealthy, or young horses. Some potential problems from insects attacking your horse include insect-borne diseases, blood loss, a rough coat, poor growth and reduced milk production in nursing mares. Pests such as mice and rats can spook a horse or carry disease.

Graphic example of insects that bother horses.

Common Diseases Carried by Insects

Mosquitoes are major carriers of a number of different viruses known to infect horses. Lice, mites, ticks and fleas are also common insect carriers. Eastern and Western encephalomyelitis (EEE and WEE) and equine infectious anemia (EIA) are two diseases spread by mosquitoes (but they”re not spread between horses). Potomac horse fever (PHF), a less common disease, is spread through the bites of lice, mites, ticks and fleas.

Horse bots pose a problem to all horse species. Bots are bee-sized flies that “glue” their eggs to the hairs on the legs, mane and flanks of horses. As the horse grooms itself or another horse, it ingests the newly hatched bot fly larvae. The larvae migrate to the stomach where they remain for several months, causing gastrointestinal disorders. When they”re finally passed in the feces, the maturing larvae burrow into the ground where they pupate and emerge several weeks later as flies. And the cycle continues.

How to Control Insects and Pests

Keep insects, especially flies, to a minimum. Stable flies lay their eggs in many places such as manure, wet hay, uncut grassy areas or moist plant areas. Another problem with stable flies is that they plague horses in swarms. Stable flies bite at horses until they bleed, feeding on the blood. Rats and mice carry disease and destroy tack and feed.

Here are some basic for controlling insects and pests:

  • Store feed in rodent-proof containers.
  • To reduce rodent nesting areas, keep the grass around barns trimmed.
  • Keep barn cats, as they are natural predators of mice.
  • Stay away from poisons or rat bait. They can be dangerous around children and other animals.
  • Remove standing water and brush from areas surrounding the barn or pasture to control the mosquito population.
  • Install automatic insect control systems or electric light insect traps in the barn. Don”t bother with sticky flytrapsthey”ll just collect dust and quickly become useless.
  • Frequent use of insect repellent makes riding more pleasant and having an atmospheric bug repellent, like citronella, makes working in the stables easier.

Bats and Birds: Natural Insect Control

Did you know that bats can help control flying insects? If you live in an area with a population of insect-feeding bats, consider placing a few bat houses around your property to encourage them to stay. They can also help control flying insects that may bite or irritate your horses and other animals. One bat can consume up to 5000 mosquitoes in a single night! Be patient, however. Bats may not take up residence right away. It could take as long as two years for the bats to decide to stay.

Birds are also fabulous insect control agents. Insect eating birds you want to encourage to flock to your property include swallows, flycatchers, swifts, titmice, vireos, woodpeckers and warblers. Swallows are particularly good insect eaters and can eat up to 6000 flying insects a day!