Three Ways to Beat Flies

Learn some money-saving techniques created by one intrepid barn owner to keep flies at bay.
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Learn some money-saving techniques created by one intrepid barn owner to keep flies at bay.
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Fly control: now there's a subject we can all relate to. Regardless of where you live, everyone fights flies during the summer. When we first bought our farm in Oregon, the fly problem was impossible, so I made it my quest to discover what fly control methods would work the best. Bottom line: using more than one method of fly control will greatly increase your ability to keep the fly population down.

Because my husband, Doug, and I are both Lyons Certified Trainers, we have as many as 16 horses on our property at any time. Because of these numbers, we've landed on a three-part fly control program that is highly cost-effective. We combine compost management with fly parasites and our own homemade flytraps. Here's a description of each method and what we like about it.

Compost Management. We're firm believers in composting as a great manure management tool. And let's face it, if you can manage your manure, that's half your battle with flies.

Composting uses chemistry to break down waste products, changing them into healthy, useful, organic material. And since manure is the breeding and hatching ground for so many insects, the chemical reactions going on inside the compost pile halt the insect maturation process quickly.

There's a lot to know about the dos and don'ts of composting. Get help from your local extension service, conservation district folks, or even garden supply places to set up a compost system that works best for your area. We compost hay, stall bedding, manure, and urine. We turn the pile every two weeks, which infuses it with fresh oxygen. This keeps the composting process going, and also inhibits the hatching of fly larvae.

Building a composting system is cheap-some wood, tarps, PVC pipe, and a little bit of time and effort.

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Fly Parasites. We've found insect parasites to be extremely effective in controlling the fly population in our area. These tiny little parasites work through different mechanisms to nip fly development in the larval stage. I know-it's strange to think about using an insect to stop an insect. You wonder if this won't just compound the bug problem. But the parasites aren't bothersome to either animals or people.

Generally, we begin using parasites in the early spring when the first breeding and development stages of flies are just getting going. The recommended schedule to release a new batch of parasites is about every three to four weeks through the end of summer. As long as you have at least two months of fly season left, you can even start now and follow up as early as possible next spring.

There are several respected companies that you can order parasites from: Spalding Laboratories and Arbico Organics, to name two. Prices for parasites, which are comparable between companies, depend on how many horses you have on your property and how often you release the parasites. For example, to buy one month's supply to protect one to five horses costs about $18. At this size, you can protect your place for the year for less than $200!

Flytraps. I use flytraps as the finishing touch to destroy the flies that managed to survive all our other efforts. There are many commercial traps available that are cheap, quick, and easy to use. Personally, I like to make my own from recycled materials. It's satisfying, easy, and cheap!

You'll need one large glass jar with a metal lid (a one-gallon pickle jar is my favorite), one chunk of raw meat (a hamburger patty is perfect), 2 cups (16 oz) of water, and one strand of baling string.

Wash the jar and lid thoroughly. Poke holes in the jar lid that are just big enough for flies to crawl into, but not so big that they can get out-less than ¼" works. Put the raw meat into the clean jar. Pour the water over the meat and put the lid on tightly. Tie the baling string to the top of the jar, so you can tie it to an inconspicuous spot on a fence post.

Here's the way it works: the raw meat begins to decompose inside the trap, drawing the flies in through the holes in the lid. The flies go in, but they can't get out. They'll die and decompose at the bottom. The water keeps the decomposition going until the trap fills with dead flies. Position the trap so it will draw flies away from your barn. Even one trap can be an effective part of your fly control program.

So, try a combination of ideas, and good luck with your fly control efforts this summer!