Fly Traps for the Horse Farm

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Credit: Courtesy Sturgis McKeever, Bugwood.org

Credit: Courtesy Sturgis McKeever, Bugwood.org

The idea of fly traps is very appealing especially when the little buggers won’t quit pestering you or your horses around the barn. Sticky fly tape, commercial fly traps, bug zappers--all will give you great satisfaction every time a fly is annihilated. Most traps are specific to a certain species of fly, and those that use smelly bait particularly target houseflies. In contrast, stable flies hone in on a horse’s physical shape and odor and are best caught with traps specific to them--visual cues rather than smelly bait as attractant.

Commercial Fly Traps

One commercial, non-chemical flytrap is called the Epps Ultimate Biting Fly Trap (Horseline Products) that is “engineered to exploit the behavior of biting flies.” The trap resembles the shape of a horse and as the fly approaches its prey by circling over or under the pseudo-horse’s form, it is forced into a bin full of soapy water. Soap alters the water’s surface tension so the fly cannot extricate itself. The manufacturer claims that one trap can control 20 acres and kill a pound of flies per day. It is reported to target stable flies, but also deerflies, horse flies and other biting flies.

Another biting fly trap--Starbar Bite FreeT Stable Fly Trap (Farnam)--is based on sticky paper trapping surfaces and is reported to be effective. It uses no chemicals and is environmentally friendly.

Some commercial fly traps use poison, such as imidacloprid, in a sugar base (QuikBayt by Bayer). Insecticidal chemicals kill other invertebrates such as predator wasps, bees, and ladybugs as well as being toxic to children, pets and chickens, for example.

Fly traps are an adjunct to insect control; they are not the primary strategy. Your property is best served if you place them throughout, at no more than 50-100 foot intervals. Most fly traps work best when placed low to the ground, less than four feet high.

Home Made Flytraps

Placing multiple fly traps around the property could get expensive. Of all the things you can make to help with your stable management, a homemade fly trap couldn’t be simpler or more cost effective. Here are the ingredients:

  • A 2-liter empty plastic bottle or juice jug
  • Scissors or matte knife
  • String
  • Bait--rotting fruit or vegetables, sugar water, honey, horse manure
  • A bit of soapy water

Cut the bottle in two, making the cut about 1/4 to 1/3 of the way down from the top so that the bottom part is longer than the top “half.” You can discard the cap or cut a large fly-sized hole in it and leave it on. Place the bait and a couple of inches of soapy water in the bottom of the bottle. Turn the top section of the bottle upside down and insert into the bottom portion. Tape the two pieces together, and lo and behold, you have a perfect fly trap. A couple of holes punched into the top of the unit, a string, and it’s ready to hang in a sunny spot, low to the ground. Locate the trap close to fly breeding sites rather than in areas where you’d rather they not come.

The flies fly into the funnel to the bait but can’t find a way back out, generally falling into the water in their attempts. Once full and/or too smelly to be tolerated, discard that container and begin anew.