It’s springtime in the Ozarks, which means the flies are back! Pesky flies make spring and summer trying times for us animals—and for humans, too! The worst springtime offenders on our farm are house flies, stable flies and midges; horse flies come later in the year.
1. House Flies
House flies are about 1/4 inch long and gray, with checkered abdomens and four lengthwise, black stripes along their backs. House flies can’t bite because they have sponging mouthparts rather than biting mouthparts. Still, they’re annoying and often spread disease. You don’t want a lot of them in your house or on your farm. Yuck!
Adult female house flies lay 50 to 100 eggs at a time and roughly 500 eggs during their brief lifetimes. They lay them in rotting organic matter, such as manure, wet straw, garbage, garden matter or windfall fruit. Their larvae, called maggots, feed on rotting organic matter, too.
Discourage house flies by keeping stalls and barn areas tidy; cleaning up spoiled feed, garden and orchard refuse; and swabbing out garbage cans at least once a week.
Use window and door screens to keep flies out of your home. Non-toxic sticky fly strips work well in barns. (Don’t get one stuck on your face—I did when I was a kid and it was nasty!) Fly traps and insecticides, like fly baits, can be placed in safe places around your barn; be careful not to put them where barn cats can reach them. You can also buy and release parasitic wasps to kill house flies; they don’t sting humans or livestock and work really well when used along with other controls.
2. Stable Flies
The stable fly look a lot like the house fly, but it has stiletto-like mouth parts extending beyond its head. It uses them to pierce a victim’s skin and draw blood.
Stable flies feed on the blood of practically any warm-blooded animal, including humans, during the early morning and again in the late afternoon. They prefer to feed outdoors and they rarely go indoors, and you’ll likely find them on lower parts of their hosts, such as on the legs. Female stable flies deposit eggs in decaying animal and plant waste, but rarely in fresh manure. Their entire life cycle from egg to adult is completed in three to six weeks.
Keep livestock in the barn during the day, when stable flies are active, and allow them out on pasture in the evenings when the fly activity has died down. If you have horses, investigate feed-through fly-control products that prevent fly eggs deposited in manure from hatching. Sticky fly strips also capture stable flies. Hang one strip per 1,000 cubic feet in indoor spaces where there isn’t a lot of air movement. They last about three months or until they’re coated with flies.
Midges are also called sand flies, sand gnats, punkies and no-see-ums. They’re among the world's tiniest biting flies. Most are dark gray or black with spotted wings. Only females suck blood. Midge bites don’t hurt at first but within eight to 12 hours, they itch like crazy.
Most midges feed at dawn and twilight, from early spring through mid-summer. A few species are daytime biters, especially on damp, cloudy days. Females lay their eggs in wet organic matter, like muck around ponds, lakes and marshes; in water trough spillover; and in decaying leaf litter, damp soiled bedding and manure.
Midges are attracted to dogs, livestock and humans, particularly to their ears and lower legs. Keep animals indoors during prime feeding time. Chemicals won't repel them, so control them by controlling their breeding habitat. Remove stagnant water sources and try to house animals at least 2 miles from large areas of breeding habitat, like marshes and swamps.
You’ll never completely eliminate troublesome flies when you live on a farm, but do your best to control them. Uzzi and I hate when flies mosey around on our backs and bite our faces. You would, too!
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