Insects thrive in damp, warm, decomposing matter. That makes manure, ditches, and stagnant water prime breeding locations. Eliminating these areas as much as possible is key to controlling insect populations at your horse barn.

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. With some common sense and good stable management practices, you can eliminate many breeding sites for insects, which helps reduce bug populations over time.

  • Properly maintain compost piles. The heat kills insect eggs and larvae.
  • Limit unused containers that hold water such as, flowerpots, buckets, old tires, discarded soda cans, or pet food bowls.
  • Clean gutters so they don’t collect water.
  • 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. 
  • Use your weed whacker to remove tall grasses where insects like to breed.
  • Remove trash daily to eliminate 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.

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.

By Nancy S. Loving, DVM