Sunday, July 11, 2010

Fighting Horse Flies

One of the problems with training outdoors in the summer, at least in this part of the country, is having to deal with horse flies and deer flies.   Both are nasty persistent bugs who can cause at the very least, distraction during training sessions, and at the worst, pain and suffering to both horse and rider.

Using bug spray, ear nets, and a horsehair riding crop can help.   However, eliminating the pests so they can't pester the horse in the first place would be even better.

After doing some light internet based research about horse flies, their life cycle, and pest control, I learned quite a bit about them.   And understanding that they are attracted to high contrast color, I suddenly appreciated why my black horse was getting attacked more viciously than my solid chestnuts, and why my flashy chestnut with four white socks seems to be preferred by the horse flies when standing next to her buckskin boyfriend.

I also learned that whenever the fly attacks the underside of a target, if the target turns out to not be food, the insect flies vertically instead of horizontally to continue the search for something edible.   It is this behavior which led scientists at the University of Manitoba and Rutgers University to design their successful traps.

And, of most interest, I learned that only females bite.   They need to feed on blood before they lay their eggs.

With a goal of breaking the female horse flies' cycle of feeding on my horses and then laying eggs so next year's offspring can feed on my horses, I decided to try a horse fly trap.   After considering the traps available for purchase on the web, I decided to build my own.

My trap is very heavy, suitable for use on our windy mountain.   The design is a mix between the Rutgers and the Manitoba fly traps, both of which capture flies without the use of chemicals or foods.

The first trap, a big black beauty of a thing if I may so myself, was so successful in capturing horse flies that I built a second trap this weekend.   With high contrast being the priority, I had a bit more fun with the paint job.   A retired horse ball toy, painted high gloss black, hangs "loose" from the center of the top panel where the actual containment traps sit.   In the wind, the ball provides a bit of motion, helping to make the trap look more alive.   The containment traps are Farnam's "Toss N Trap" fly traps, without the chemicals.   They are perfectly designed for use on a Manitoba horse fly trap and, held on with bungy cords, are very easy to replace when the contents of the traps get grungy.

So, now we have a handsome Holstein in one of our pastures.   Hopefully the horse flies will absolutely love it!   Dinner is ready!   Come and get it!     :-)

1 comment:

  1. hi I would love to see your plans!