Did you know mosquito activity can be as high as 500% more on a full-moon? It’s true, according to mosquito.org. The next full moon is May 14, followed by June 13, so get ready if mosquitoes are active in your area. You can see the full moon schedule here.
Don’t know how active mosquitoes are in your town? You can put your zip code in at weather.com and find out during which hours the mosquitoes will be heaviest. It was amazing to insert my own zip code here in New York state and then compare it to Atlanta, Ga. (There are advantages to living in upstate New York!) Yes, the activity is worst from dusk to dawn, which is one of the reasons we don’t turn our horses out at night.
Wondering how active mosquito-carried illnesses are in your geographical area? We found that too: the USGS disease maps.
But why worry so much about mosquitoes? Think Eastern and Western equine encephalitis (EEE/WEE) and West Nile virus (WNV), among other diseases. You already know the equine symptoms include fever, weakness, neurological (stumbling, circling), head pressing and so on, but why take the risk? EEE has around a 75% mortality rate; West Nile is around 40%. But you will have veterinary bills. The horses get very sick. Makes vaccination seem like a bargain, doesn’t it?
Besides shots, you can minimize mosquitoes on our property by keeping standing areas of water drained (look for places water pools, like empty plant containers, buckets), as water is a necessity for the mosquito life cycle.
Natural repellent sprays containing cedar oil (which works well but some horses and people may find it intolerable), neem oil (often mixed with coconut) and citronella are good choices. Espree Aloe Herbal Horse Spray also contains eucalyptus, and works well (and leaves your horse’s coat soft). Many people swear by citronella. It’s the repelling ingredient in Avon's Skin-So-Soft, and it’s found in many horse sprays.
However, when it really matters, we admit we turn to chemicals. Our favorites include Farnam's Mosquito Halt, Absorbine’s UltraShield EX and Farnam’s Original Formula Wipe (nothing works as quickly!). You can also check a fly spray’s label for permethrin, which is approved as a topical repellent/insecticide for horses and works well against mosquitoes. (We know some people use it, but we would avoid DEET on horses.)
Some fly sheets can help, if they have a very tight mesh that makes it difficult for a mosquito to bite through, like Mosquito Mesh from Schneiders Saddlery. You can also lightly spray the sheet on both sides before putting it on your horse. Use just enough to moisten the fabric and allow it to dry before applying.
But remember that nothing is going to cover 100% of your horse’s body, bringing us back to sprays and vaccination. If you have a favorite product or ingredient for mosquito control, let’s share the information. We’d love to hear from you.