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Fly Control on an Organic Farm

Red Pine Mountain logoWarning: This post contains horse manure photos. Might not be for the squeamish.

Horses = poop = flies and more flies I soon discovered when I brought horses to Red Pine Mountain. I knew I had to combat them but the real challenge was how to deal with flies on organic farm land.

What to do?

I use a fly sheet and a fly mask even though Khrysta doesn’t appreciate being dressed.

Khrysta the Morgan mare in her fly sheet

And although Khrysta is protected from biting insects, it does nothing to control the rapidly reproducing fly population. So I searched for other solutions.

I had read about Fly Predators in magazines. They sounded interesting but I needed to investigate them more thoroughly. I discovered they are small, beneficial insects who are already living on your property but not in concentrated enough quantities to manage all flies, and their entire purpose in life is to eat fly larvae. They do not bite or sting humans and their life cycle is spent on piles of manure munching away on fly pupa.

I figured I had nothing to lose by giving them a try so I submitted an order for 5,000 of the little beasts which is enough to control flies for the poop of 1 to 5 horses.

5000 fly predators in a bag

The little bugs arrived nestled in a plastic bag nestled in pine shavings. I set them aside for a couple of days until they hatched.

Waiting for fly predators to hatch.

Once they hatched, I walked the pasture and emptied several of the creatures on or near manure droppings. I didn’t have to tackle every poop; these small beasts can travel 150 feet in search of fresh manure.

Walking the pasture with fly predators

Fly predators on fresh manure

The first time I used Fly Predators, I noticed some difference in flies but certainly not the reduction I had anticipated. My mistake? I had started well into the summer and I learned I needed to start spreading fly predators at the beginning of fly season. The next year I did just that and the results were amazing, and the flies almost entirely disappeared.

Perhaps you say your fly management is working just fine, and you’re content with the chemicals you are using. That’s certainly everyone’s prerogative. But I’d like us to look at the bigger picture here, and that’s living as gently on our earth as we possibly can and leaving it as pristine as possible for the next generation. Fly predators and responsible manure management are helping me to do my small part.

If you’re interested in Fly Predators, you can visit their website.

mountain woman
5/9/2010 5:19:56 AM

Hi Pam, I remember those Southern summers so well. I don't know about sweat flies but they sound awful. I think you'd like the fly predators. If you start them before flies get under way, they really do the trick. Thanks so much for visiting me.


pam_6
5/8/2010 10:19:10 AM

Hi MountainWoman, I totally understand Khrysta's outfit! I feel like wearing the same thing around our farm sometimes. We have a long humid summer down this way which makes for a long bug season. We have flies of all kind. The ones we call sweat flies/bees hurt when they bite me so I know they hurt the animals also. The guineas and chickens in the barn help with insect control. I looked at the Fly Predators website and want to look into in some more. It sounds like something we can use around here. Have a great day. Pam


cindy murphy
5/7/2010 7:54:23 PM

No, Mountain Woman, I don't have any photos of Smokey in leggings. My boss probably does, but they're probably too old to be digital. So Khrysta's a Horse for a Cause in her breast cancer fund raiser fly mask. Well, isn't that the horse's pajamas. (Is that an actual saying, or did I just flub up another one; it's a habit.)


mountain woman
5/7/2010 9:17:36 AM

Hi Cindy, That's such a neat story about Smokey. I'd love to try that idea. Do you have pictures? Khrysta's fly mask with the pink ears is actually a breast cancer fund raiser fly mask through an organization called "Tough Enough to Wear Pink." And she's certainly tough enough :-) I too love the fact that we don't have to resort to harsh chemicals with the potential of run off to keep our land and animals and us healthy. I sure wish I had known about these methods in my younger days but better late than never. Thank you so much for stopping by!!


cindy murphy
5/7/2010 6:53:28 AM

Mornin', Mountain Woman. Isn't it cool that nature provides her own set of biological controls, negating the need for chemical use? Cool also, you chose to use it over the latter. Interesting apparel Khyrsta is wearing. Not having horses, or being around them much, I've never seen anything like it. My boss used to have a donkey; his pasture was adjacent to the nursery grounds and Smokey loved the attention from all the customers - he was quite the ham, actually. When fly season came around, my boss used women's opaque tights to keep the flies from biting Smokey's legs. She'd cut off the panty part of the tights, and slip his legs into the legging part of the hose. There would be Smokey, wearing the latest in donkey leg apparel, (often each leg a different color), strutting his stuff down the pasture fashion runway for the customers.


mountain woman
5/7/2010 5:06:08 AM

Hi Nebraska Dave, I love the term "hay baby." I'd never heard it before but I'm going to remember that. I'm sure Khrysta's vision is somewhat obstructed although she can see. It's fine netting. I do take it off at night but she's more comfortable in fly apparel than having them biting her ears and sitting on her tear ducts. I never thought we'd have so many flies either with a large pasture and one horse but we did. Thanks so much for visiting me!!!


nebraska dave
5/6/2010 11:33:01 PM

MW, I have not seen any thing quite like the outfit that Khrysta has on. Can Khrysta see through the head cover? My sister Pam was the only one in the family with an interest to have a horse. She bought Judy who was thought to be with child when she bought her. Later we found out it was only a hay baby. My sister just fed her too much and Judy got fat. I don’t recall we had a fly problem but then again we had a big pasture where the cows and the horse could roam. This is the first I’ve heard about a natural fly predator. I hope your little fly gobbling critters continue to consume many times their weight in yummy fly larva through out the summer.