Editor’s note: If April showers bring May flowers, they also mark the beginning of a horse farm’s insect fight for the year. This month we will have a series of articles designed to help you better understand the options you have for controlling pesky insects around your horses and property.
What makes the best breeding environment for insects? It is no secret that they flourish in damp, warm, decomposing matter, such as is found in manure, ditches and stagnant ponds. A key element of insect control hinges on environmental cleanliness to reduce breeding sites for insects.
If you are diligent about picking up manure and soiled bedding every day and composting it away from the barn, you can significantly cut down on fly populations. Heat in a properly maintained compost pile kills insect eggs and larvae. By ensuring that there are no vessels lying around the property that hold water–flowerpots, buckets, old tires, discarded soda cans, or pet food bowls–you’ll minimize mosquito habitat.
Don’t forget to clean gutters so they don’t collect water, and check covers on the grill, woodpile or swimming pool for areas that trap water. Avoid overfilling water tanks and use gravel and slightly sloping ground to improve drainage around tanks.
Be liberal with your weed whacker to remove tall grasses where insects like to breed. Daily trash removal also eliminates fly attractants and breeding possibilities.
Ponds and ditches are additional magnets for insect breeding, especially if water is stagnant and organic material collects around the edges. To deter pond breeding of mosquitoes, blackflies and midges, use environmentally friendly granules or briquettes that contain soil bacteria called Bacillus thuringiensis sub. israelensis (BTI) or Bacillus sphaericus (BS). BTI is non-toxic to other aquatic life. Dragonflies lurking around ponds are an advantage as they consume mosquito larvae and adults. Weekly application of BTI or BS to standing bodies of water should continue until the first killing frost.
We know flies love horse wounds, so proper wound management minimizes this attractant. Clean wounds well, and it might be prudent to cover wounds during insect season.
With some common sense and good stable management practices, you can eliminate many attractive breeding sites for insects. This helps reduce insect populations logarithmically over time.