Fly season may still be a few weeks away, but you can take steps now to reduce the insect populations on your farm throughout the summer months:
• Identify areas where water may collect.
Mosquitoes, mayflies and other insects need to lay their eggs in standing water. Inefficient drainage ditches, clogged gutters and even abandoned buckets that fill with water will help insect populations to thrive. Take time now to locate and address such problems.
• Rethink your manure-handling procedures.
Manure is an unavoidable aspect of horsekeeping, but how you manage it can make a big difference in how many insects you’ll see this summer. Resolve to pick out pastures daily; simply dragging fields to spread manure isn’t enough---insect and parasite eggs survive unless the temperature is consistently above 85 degrees Fahrenheit and the weather is dry. Also, put your manure pile as far as possible from your horse’s stabling.
• Order some parasitoids.
These tiny, nonstinging insects in the wasp family ravage fly populations by laying their eggs in the fly pupae. The baby predator wasps then consume the pupae before they can develop into flies. Fly predators are most effective if they’re released periodically throughout the spring and summer.
This article first appeared in EQUUS issue #440.