There are some insects that are universally reviled. Horse flies are one such creature. In ancient literature they were mentioned to drive people to madness from their persistent pursuit of blood.
Unfortunately, horse flies are everywhere. They inhabit forests, fields, and even our backyards. While we can’t always anticipate when a fly will appear in our presence, there are a number of ways to prevent them from taking up residence in our properties.
Generally speaking, horse flies are attracted to areas with lots of moisture like overgrown gardens or rotting fruit trees. Therefore, if you want to prevent them from making themselves at home on your property, you should take steps to reduce water access and eliminate any standing water sources wherever possible – especially in the heat of summer when they’re most active. Here is everything you need to know about horse flies so you can get rid of them once and for all!
What do Horse Flies Look Like?
Horse flies are large, robust insects that grow anywhere up to one and one quarter inches in length. The females are generally larger than their male counterparts. The horse fly’s coloration is largely black and yellow with black wings and a bright orange or yellow abdomen.
The horse fly may be all black or its hind legs can be bright orange and covered in dense bristles. Like many other blood-feeding insects, horse flies have large compound eyes. These eyes are very sensitive to motion, which makes them very effective at locating prey. Horse flies are a rather distinctive-looking insect. Even if you’ve never encountered one before, you should have no trouble recognizing them when you see them.
Horse Fly Behavior and Habits
Horse flies are not the type of insect that will sit and wait for a meal to pass by. Like many blood-feeding arthropods, horse flies actively search out their food source. However, unlike other blood-feeders, horse flies are not very specific in their diet.
Instead of picking a specific host, horse flies will happily consume from a variety of animals. This makes them particularly dangerous to livestock as they can readily infect domesticated animals with a number of diseases.
In fact, horse flies are the most dangerous insect in North America with respect to livestock. They transmit a number of serious diseases to livestock including anthrax, dysentery, and blue tongue. Out of all livestock, horses are particularly at risk. This is because horses are large animals that can sustain significant blood loss during an attack. This makes them an easy target for horse flies. Fortunately, horse flies tend to avoid humans. They seem to prefer large, hoofed mammals. However, horse flies are not completely harmless to humans. They are blood-feeders, which means they can inflict a painful bite. While it’s not usually dangerous, it is incredibly itchy. Horse fly bites often result in painful and large bumps.
Life Cycle of a Horsefly
Horse flies have a four-stage lifecycle consisting of eggs, larval, pupae and adult. They prefer to lay their eggs on stones or vegetation near standing water. There are over 4,000 species of horse fly, and each species alters its reproductive patterns slightly.
The incubation cycle of horse flies is based on the current temperature. The warmer the location, the quicker the eggs hatch. Larvae live in warm moist areas preferring mud or even the water of small lakes, ponds or swamps. The larvae find a soft place to burrow into until they metamorphose to the pupae stage. This can take upward of 48 days, depending on the species. One of which will remain in the larvae stage for upward of 3 years.
Most species will not be in the pupae stage for very long, typically 7 to 16 days. However, all these time frames are shortened in warmer climates. As adults, horse flies typically only live a couple of months.
How to Repel Horse Flies
As with most insects, the best way to deal with horse flies is to prevent them from showing up in the first place. Horse flies are drawn to moist areas, so if you can get rid of any standing water on your property, you can significantly reduce your risk of infestation.
While horse flies don’t seem to like the smell of most essential oils, citronella oil is actually extremely effective at keeping them away. You can repel horse flies with citronella oil by spraying it on your yard or wearing it as a natural insect repellent. In fact, many commercial insect repellents are made with citronella oil.
Flowers are a great way to naturally attract beneficial insects to your yard. Some flowers attract bees, which can help reduce the amount of horse flies in your yard because horse flies don’t like bees.
Horse flies are like an invasive species and you need to not only protect your livestock, but you and your pets as well. Don’t forget that it’s also important to create barriers around your property as much as possible to keep them from entering your property in the first place. Here are a few ideas when dealing with horse flies.
Use citronella oil as spray when you’re outside. Horse flies have no problem with attacking during the day, in fact that’s their preference. You can also use commercial bug-repelling sprays, but make sure they are specifically designed for horse flies. Light-colored clothing is your best bet. It bounces the heat off of your person, therefore lowering your overall body temperature, which can detract horse flies.
Although they are the most active during the hottest days of summer, you should cover yourself as much as possible. Don’t think the best bet is to wear very heavy clothing to act as a type of armor against their bites. You’ll end up dehydrating yourself in the process. Just try to wear light clothing that will cover as much of your body as possible, especially if you are dealing with a horse fly infestation.
Protect Your Animals
Horse flies preference is livestock. The best way to protect your animals is with a pyrethrin bath. A bath does not mean trying to load all your livestock into a bathtub, but spraying them down. It helps protect them from the horse flies and keeps them cooler during the hotter periods of the year.
Pyrethrin is a natural pesticide derived from chrysanthemum plants. Spraying your animals every day or two will help to protect them from horse flies.
Cattle can also have insecticide-impregnated eartags or collars placed on them to detour horse flies and other insect ides from bothering htem.
Maintaining your barn, sheds, and even your home is a solid line of defense against the horse fly. Try using strong-smelling plants like basil, catnip. lemon balm, spearmint and lavender around your buildings and garden. They help to curb all types of pests.
Keep the barn and area around it clear of spilled food and manure as much as possible. Performing this task twice a week reduces your chances of horse flies greatly.
Remove any area that has standing water to stop horse flies from laying eggs on your property. Spraying insecticides on manure out and around the barn, and around standing water holes where you can’t remove will also help stop the horse flies from procreating. To really protect your barn look at:
Besides those tips listed above, also look at lanterns, or light traps to keep the flies away. Many of these are intended for night time, and horse flies prefer the daylight, but they will wonder out during the night as well. Make sure your pool is well-chlorinated to stop the horse flies from breeding near the pool.
When is the Worst Time of the Year for Horse Flies?
Horse flies typically show up in the early summer months, often as early as April. They have a very short lifespan, appearing in the spring to breed and then dying off in the fall, so they are typically only an issue for a couple months at most. If you can just get through the warmer months without suffering from the bites of horse flies, you’ll be fine!
Where Do Horse Flies Live
Horse flies live everywhere in the world except the polar icecaps, Greenland, Iceland, and Hawaii. Florida, due to their abundance of swamps have the most horse flies in the United States.
Do Horse Flies Bite
Horse flies are attracted to the smells of blood, manure and sweat. Horse flies begin their mating ritual soon after they reach adulthood. Once the female horse fly is impregnated, she begins looking for a blood source to feed upon. Only the female horse fly bites so she can gather enough protein in her system to lay eggs. . During this time you, your livestock and your pets are prime targets. While horse flies don’t have stingers like other insects, their bites are very painful and can leave behind a large, painful welt.
Horse flies are very aggressive, and they’ll often bite multiple times, which can leave behind a very painful wound. Horse flies are typically found in areas with lots of vegetation, such as swamps, bogs, and marshlands. Once they’ve fed it takes them about 6 days to digest their food before heading out and looking for the next meal.
Horse flies are attracted to their host by temperature, movement, scent, the texture of the skin, and even the carbon dioxide exuded from the mouth.
Horse flies have a preference of where they bite their prey depending on the species. Some may attack the neck while producing a loud buzzing noise, others prefer to come in low and attack the ankles and legs. Some recognize humans and will try to come in fast to attack the outer extremities, like the arms and legs, bite and they fly away before they can be swatted.
Horse flies can distribute blood-borne diseases between animal species, but not to humans. However, some humans can have a sort of allergic reaction from the bite causing dizziness, fatigue, rashes and even wheezing. If bitten, a cold compress should be applied and an antihistamine applied to reduce the swelling. If the area becomes infected, see a doctor as soon as possible.
Talk to the Professionals
Contacting your local pest control may, or may not, be helpful. It depends on the level of infestation and if you have an idea where they are coming from. A pest control specialist can help guide you toward defeating the flies though several other means.
If the pest control expert can find a small pond where the flies may have come from, then they can spray the area to kill the larvae before they become adults. Professionals can possibly help with spraying cattle, your barn and around the home. They can also give you insights on some of the best technologies on the market for dealing with horse flies.
Local professionals are the best, since they know your area and may be used to dealing with these pests. Don’t expect miraculous results from a single visit. Depending how prevalent the flies are in the surrounding area, there may not be much a specialist can do. Again, they can help with the home and barn, and offer suggestions on how to help with the outlying areas of your farm where your cattle may roam.
If you’d like some advice on how to deter horse flies from entering your premises, contact the experts at Natran Green Pest Control.