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6 Effective Ways to Get Rid of Horse Flies

6 Effective Ways to Get Rid of Horse Flies

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As equestrians, we always look forward to the summer season and the great weather it brings. However, summer also means we have to deal with horse flies and other insects pestering us and our horses.

Horse flies (Tabanidae) are a family of insects with over 160 species living in the United States. Female horseflies feed on the blood of livestock and humans through large bites that can pierce thick skin and clothing.

On the other hand, male horseflies are essential pollinators that collect nectar and are completely harmless to us.

Since the bite of horse flies is painful and can even scare horses, they are highly undesirable on equestrian yards. Knowing how to get rid of them is therefore a useful skill that can make your time at the stables much more enjoyable!

Here are six ways to get rid of or reduce horse fly numbers.

1. Remove Standing Water

Horse flies, like many other insects, breed in a moist environment. As a result, removing standing water is an effective way of keeping numbers under control on your property.

If you have fields where water tends to accumulate, you’ll need to build proper drainage systems to channel that water away. While this is an expensive solution, you’ll be able to put previously unused areas of your property at work.

To minimize standing water around your horses, it’s also a good idea to have fewer watering points. For example, you could install automatic waterers along the fenceline, so two or even three fields can share a single water trough.

Remember to remove any unused water buckets and cover your pond or pool in peak horse fly season. This might mean some extra work, but your horses will thank you for it!

2. Use Repellents

Woman spraying horse fly repellent on a horse

You can use horse fly repellents directly on your horses, as well as stable doors, walls, and manure pile. Effective repellents can not only keep horse flies away, but can also kill them!

Most fly sprays are general purpose and work against a number of species. To find out if a product repels horse flies, check the bottle or read reviews online.

Commercial Repellents

Chemicals in the pyrethroids, organophosphates, and organochlorine groups work well against horse flies. So if you see them mentioned on the packaging, there’s a good chance you’ve got the right product.

After doing some research, we have found that the following repellents are effective against horse flies:

Keep in mind that insects, like microbes, can develop resistance against chemicals after a certain period of time. Therefore, it’s worth changing up the products you use every now and again to maximize their efficiency.

Homemade Repellents

Homemade repellents can be very effective against horse flies if mixed correctly. There are many recipes to try out online, most of which are safe to use on your horse’s skin.

The main ingredients of homemade fly repellents are:

  • white vinegar
  • essential oils like lavender, eucalyptus, citronella, or tea tree
  • lemon juice
  • alcohol
  • dish soap

These are common ingredients and are not all used in the same solution.

3. Set up Fly Traps

Horse fly trap attached to a pole in a field
John-Fs-Pic /

Whether you buy them or make them yourself, fly traps are an easy and effortless way of getting rid of horse flies on your property.

For a quick solution, you could invest in a mechanical trap that kills flies instantly. Examples are lamps, bug zappers, or sticky tapes coated in strong chemicals.

Other traps collect horse flies and keep them in a small container until they die. Flies-Be-Gone traps use bait inside a plastic bag to attract flies. Once the horse fly enters the bag, they have no way of escaping and remain trapped inside.

Horse Pal is another such trap that collects flies in a glass jar. It consists of a large dark ball that attracts the flies with a fabric tent above it to channel them into the jar where they will eventually die.

A homemade version of Horse Pal is the umbrella horsefly trap that works very much on the same basis. Instructions for how to build one are widely available online.

Find horse fly traps here on Amazon.

4. Cut Down Tall Grasses

After a clear and cold night, moisture tends to collect at the base of tall grasses and weeds. As we know, this is an ideal breeding ground for many insects including horse flies. They also like to retreat here during the hottest hours of the day, which is another reason for keeping your grasses under control.

Horse trying to scratch it's head because of horse flies

A neatly cut lawn or field is less likely to serve as a suitable shelter for horse flies, which can help keep the problem at bay.

5. Keep Your Yard Clean

Along the same lines, be sure to clean up manure, spilled feed, and old bedding on a regular basis. These all provide an ideal environment for female horse flies to lay their eggs in.

Ideally, your manure pile should be as far away from your stables as possible. However, if this is not achievable, you can spray the manure pile and surrounding areas with insecticide to kill any developing larvae.

6. Avoid Peak Hours of Activity

While this won’t get rid of horse flies, staying away when they are most active can make the time you spend with your horse more enjoyable.

Some species of horse fly are most active during daylight hours, others around dusk and dawn. Your best bet is to look up which species are most common in your area and plan your day accordingly.