View Full Version : Best spray for horse flies

Cheval Gris
Apr. 11, 2011, 01:51 PM
Has anyone found a good spray for HORSE flies? I am talking the 1" ginormous, slow, you can catch them in your fingers and squeeze them until they pop flies? My new horse is VERY intolerant of them. I have them pretty bad at my place; I can stand around at dinner and kill 15 or 20 at a time. He has a great fly sheet with belly band but these get up in the sheath area so that is no help. Fly predators? Spray? Idk. Poor guy wont stay outside when it is hot b/c he just can't stand it (just arrived in SC from PA and has no idea what this humidity and large bird-sized bugs are all about!)

Apr. 11, 2011, 02:00 PM
A .22? Sorry, my impression has been that they are impervious to anything short of physical violence. Maybe spraying the heck out of them with pure permethrin would kill them non-violently, but I haven't seen any sprays that actually repelled them when used normally. Maybe someone else has a secret potion (arsenic?). I call them B-52's because they're slow but massive like bombers.

Since it's mostly one area, maybe putting a bunch of SWAT on and around his sheath would work. ???

Cheval Gris
Apr. 11, 2011, 02:12 PM
Oops! But I'll take these suggestions here too!

Apr. 11, 2011, 02:16 PM
I agree that it is a tough one. I go the fly sheet route with a belly band (Schneiders is a nice one for the price) and use Espace gel on the areas not covered.

Cheval Gris
Apr. 11, 2011, 02:30 PM
:eek:So I was wondering about the swat...slathering on a good layer of this or the gel would prevent them from stinging, you think?? Poor guy is going to be covered head to toe in mesh or sticky stuff! And it gets so stinking hot here in the summer I don't know what wearing a heavy rambo fly sheet is going to do to his sanity! Looks like he'll be voluntarily indoors in front of the fan starting, um tommorow. Its already almost 90 here :eek: He is ready to go back to PA:D

Cheval Gris
Apr. 11, 2011, 02:30 PM
Gato, I am not opposed to violent death :) I actually take pleasure in crunching them, no matter how messy!

Apr. 11, 2011, 02:36 PM
I'd suggest Pyrahna fly spray - it SAYS it protects against horse flies, but I haven't had any horse flies to try it out on. I LOVE it - spray it on a fly and you can see them flop on the ground and within seconds they are dead. I think it smells pretty good, but it does "leave a conditioning shine" or whatever, that can be kind of greasy. It comes in a yellow bottle. Good luck!

Apr. 11, 2011, 08:28 PM
here is the deal with Horse/Deer flies (especially the large ones). The REASON that fly spray is toxic to insects and not humans is largely related to dosage. Insects are smaller, thus a smaller dose kills them. When you start getting in to horse/deer fly range, you need much larger doses. Therefore those doses woulds start to get toxic to humans (small children, domestic pets, etc) so most insecticides will not be effective.

Fly predators will NOT Work on horse/stable flies. wasps in the family Pteromalidae primarily attack muscid flies (house flies, stable flies) and have some affinity for calliphorid (bottle) flies.

Horse/deer flies breed in low marshy areas but have pretty extensive dispersal. They also tend to be very territorial and host location specific i.e. why some species hover around your head and others around your feet and why if you move 5 feet by that tree in the field you are surrounded, but move out of that zone and they wont go near you.

Best recommendation is to keep your horses out of the pasture that they are attacking during the period of time that they attack (generally crepuscular).

Trap options include the Epps trap and the Horse Pal trap.

ETA: Source: I'm a graduate student in Entomology

Apr. 11, 2011, 09:13 PM
I use SWAT on the sheath area and ears. Leaves my horse looking like the Easter bunny which is appropriate for this time of year.

Apr. 11, 2011, 09:27 PM
I don't think horse flies, which hunt by sight and not smell, care about fly sprays at all. I put Deep Woods Off on ears and neck when I ride, which helps with deer flies, but nothing but bomber traps works for the big bloodsuckers, IME.

Lori B
Apr. 11, 2011, 09:29 PM
GatoGordo, I swear I clicked on this thread ready to post the same thing -- "A .22?"


Apr. 11, 2011, 10:25 PM
I feel for your horse! Poor Baby!

I use tri-tec 14 often, plus buzz-off for ticks. The horse flies do vere off when they get close to the tri-tek. I figure that they will die if they latch on and get a swig of the tick spray. It is quite satisfying to nail those bombers!
Last year I used frontline for the ticks, but this year the ticks have adjusted and it no longer works. I try to stay out of the low marshy areas. Which is hard when you are doing conditioning on small mountains and tall hills.

I do carry a swatter with me when I'm at the barn, too. The vornado outdoor safe fans really have a blast to them, if the horses make it to the barn. The barn is low light, compared to outside, so that helps.

I had the same trouble with the flies getting up inside the netting. That really caused havoc.

Apr. 12, 2011, 08:51 AM
TSHEventing, thanks for the expert advice!

Apr. 12, 2011, 09:08 AM
I've got a question about the swat. We always have to use it in one of our horse's ears as he is sensitive (or perhaps they are just attracted to him?) to gnats. Somehow the swat becomes a gooey mess all over his forelock by the next day. Anyone else have this problem?

Think I'll try the tri-tech spray this year. We used ultra-shield last year.

Apr. 16, 2011, 06:51 AM
Thanks TSH, now I really *will* remember the meaning of the word "crepuscular."

May. 4, 2011, 08:22 PM
haha, dusk :)

May. 4, 2011, 08:43 PM
For regular flies, I use Mosquito Halt. it's the only stuff I've found that I can spray on and NOT see flies landing on my boy's legs two seconds later.

For those ginormous horse flies, I use Cashel bug armor. Cover every spare inch of them, and use a fly mesh mask for myself, as well. The only way to protect yourself from gnats to those huge green bombers, if you must trail ride in Southern Pines in the summer.

May. 4, 2011, 09:30 PM
My standby is Farnam Super 7. One time I visited a friend's barn who was out of town and one mare was just covered by these huge horse flies. She was frantic. I grabbed my Super 7 and sprayed her and most of them went away and she could finally relax. Poor mare. This was about 15 years ago and I still remember it! Actually, my Dad was with me (not a horse person at all) and HE still talks about that day. I would also swat the sheath area. Those flies are nasty and will bite right through a fly sheet! I have to spray my fly sheets too when they are active in August.

May. 5, 2011, 12:41 AM
ugh, thanks for reminding me that "black fly" season is coming.

I hate those things. It's probably the one time a horse will tolerate you hitting them (we wait till they land and smack, bug fall down dead). I think they know you are killing those godforsaken flies. My apologies to the entomologist, I am sure they are good for something....

May. 5, 2011, 08:51 AM
Belly Balm from Tail Tamers. It is a natural thick paste that won't sweat off as fast as sprays. Works great in ears too for gnats!

I think Jeffers carries it, or google Hillview farms Proven Products for riders. I got it from her at a horse expo and LOVE it.

May. 5, 2011, 05:02 PM
I use SWAT on the sheath area and inside hind legs- it seems to be where the horse flies bite most often. A nice thick layer, which is gross and gooey but if you hose it off daily and give it a good scrub with some betadine before reapplying (I like to do this while he eats dinner), it keeps it a little fresher and you don't have gooey dried SWAT everywhere. Also, it comes in white/clear so if you have a lighter horse, they are not doomed to looking pink all summer!

May. 5, 2011, 05:03 PM
Forgot to add- if you go this route, invest in some rubber gloves to apply it with. Nothing like a hand that smells like SWAT.

May. 5, 2011, 10:55 PM
^ And don't ask me how I know that it leaves a nasty aftertaste if you forget to wash your hands between applying SWAT and eating. :dead:

May. 6, 2011, 09:11 AM
Thankfully, we get very few B52s up here, but when we do, I like to turn out at night instead. The night time bugs - mostly mosquitoes here, are easier to handle.
My favorite spray for heavy duty biters is Bite Free - dark red bottle. It leaves a coating on them though. Otherwise, my go to is UltraShield. Unfortunately, I have never had great luck with fly sheets or spray for the B52s.
I once saw an old sway backed horse lie down and roll, and the @##$% thing was still there on his spine when he got up. I had to beat it off with a towel. That one experience had all the horses run to the fence line nearest me while I worked when they had them buzzing around them. They would line up laterally to the fence to be "beaten" with the towels I kept in my back pocket.
I can only imagine how bad they must be down south. :(

May. 6, 2011, 05:10 PM
I use clac (the orange bottles) with some success. I've been looking to try some other natural methods like apple cider viniger, skin so soft etc. My bigger battle are fire ants. Those damn mounds suck hooves like a vacuum and in the update it is hard to keep up with the suckers.

May. 6, 2011, 05:18 PM
My standby is Farnam Super 7.

Second this! The Super 7 is AMAZING.

Or, you could just move to CO - I'm still on the same bottle of fly spray I had when I moved here from VA almost 2 years ago. ;):cool:

May. 6, 2011, 06:22 PM
Or, you could just move to CO - I'm still on the same bottle of fly spray I had when I moved here from VA almost 2 years ago. ;):cool:

I am really, really jealous.
I live in coastal New England and it would be just the best place to live if only we didn't have all those bugs.
Black flies are already out in force and if i want a quiet ride, I have to cover my horse's head from ears to tip of nose, and keep moving. Ugh.
Bite Free works very well, kills ticks also, but I agree that nothing much works on those big horse flies, green heads, and even the smaller deer flies. In this area they are out during the day, so if things get really bad we turn the horses out at night.
Beware of fly sheets with belly bands. My mare once had a big horse fly get stuck in her sheet. Poor mare went nuts! No belly band for her from now on.

*sigh* Spring and Summer would be such great riding seasons without all those insects. I have to remind myself that they feed the nice birds we have around here tho. I'm trying really hard to stay positive!

May. 6, 2011, 09:06 PM
Pirana works well. EZ Go is also pretty decent.

May. 6, 2011, 10:35 PM
So tell me...is there a reason we can't use Human Fly/bug spray? I've asked folks and some say they use it at times and others won't touch it. Is it the Deet that can't be used?
My new OTTB is terrified of spray bottles and though he's understanding slowly that they won't eat him, he's still not great. I picked up some deep woods off wipes for at least his legs. Our wet Spring is supposed to bring double the usual tick population this year and I don't want to risk the Lyme and other diseases that come with bites.
Any thoughts/info?

May. 7, 2011, 08:04 PM
Swat does work on the B-52s but I put the Swat on the tender bits...on ear feathers, on their nether parts, the front of chest, arm pits and on lower legs if the ankle biters are out. I do that after I have put Wipe on with a mitt all over. The horses fall asleep instantly. They are unimpressed with any of the fly sprays I have used. They want that Wipe and Swat. It also seems to keep the ticks off too. True it is oily and they get dirty, and they are absurdly pink(the clear doesn't work as well) but to see how relieved they are is the reward. If they are very bad I bring them in with fans on. You need to have a livestock fan in your shed areas. It also helps to have a shed with deep shade. PatO in Minnesota land of ten thousand lakes and fifty thousand wet lands.

May. 8, 2011, 07:29 PM
I will be taking copious notes on the findings here, as I also live in coastal SC and we have the same problem with those nasty horse flies.

If you want to make every man in your general vicinity blanch, relate this to them. Two years ago I was out riding around dusk. We were almost done when my horse started acting like a total creep -- uncooperative, fussy, cranky. I figured that he had just decided that his quarter was up, and since this was not entirely unusual behavior, I made him work through it.

He returned to normal and we walked back to the barn. When we walked through the door I noticed a not insignificant amount of blood dripping from his sheath. I completely freaked out and was about to speed dial the vet when I figured out that I might want to try to figure out what the heck was going on. I got him to drop using carrot stretches (he's quite the exhibitionist) and as soon as he did there was a HUGE (easily an inch and a half) horse fly. . .attached. I knocked it off and it fell to the ground and basically exploded. It was so blood drunk that it died on impact! :eek:

I have never seen my horse look so relieved. Poor boy. He would have been well within his right to put me on the ground given the situation. Needless to say, he had many, many cookies that night. And that generous nature is why I keep the boy around! :D

May. 8, 2011, 07:42 PM
Wow TSH. Apparently anything can get answered on these forums. That was pretty impressive.

Fractious Fox
May. 8, 2011, 08:15 PM
I suspected that these horseflies were different than regular flies, thanks TSHEventing for explaining the backstory on these awful bugs!

For regular flies/mosquitoes I really like (ETA)Cactus Equine Spray. I don't think you can find it in every store, but it's manufactured in Alabama and I buy it in various Aiken area tack shops/feed stores, so it's at least present on a regional basis. It runs about $39 for a bottle of concentrate, but you can make seven or eight bottles from the concentrate. It smells lovely, and really does seem to work. A few flies in heavily infested areas will penetrate to land, but they can't stay for more than a few seconds. It is all natural and way safe to use on any mammal. I'm a believer! (ETA: I think it's the same as the human product Cactus Juice, but I can't find a Cactus Equine Spray website).

May. 19, 2015, 04:21 PM
There are no horse flies spray that will keep the flies off for long periods of time, the best thing to do for your horse is to give it garlic. I buy my garlic powder from springtime bug off garlic. You can buy 2, 5 lb. containers for 72 dollars and get third one free, plus shipping. But I would get the 2, 10 lbs. for $130 and get the 1, 10 lb. for free, includes shipping. 3 scoops per day every single day until summer is over for your horse. Your horse wont ever have that problem again including, horse flies and mosquitos, ticks anything that bites. Takes 4 weeks to see the effects of the garlic, do not stop giving the garlic powder. Mix it in the grain with water and add some other stuff to take the taste away so it's not so bad garlicky smell and taste. But it works like a miracle.

I give my horse the garlic when I first got her and she has NOT one bite on her, they do fly around her, but they don't bite her. I just got another horse, and poor horse, she has bites all over her belly part by her nipples, its so bad... there are bruses, so I spray that area with essential oils and I am giving her the double dose of garlic powder to work faster in her body.

May. 19, 2015, 04:44 PM
Garlic powder would be the solution to these large horse flies. But people have to be willing to spend the money on garlic powder and give to their horses every single day without missing a day during the early spring all the way through summer.

My horse has not been bitten since I started giving her garlic powder, 3 scoops per day always, never missing a day or a scoop, if anything I'll give her an another scoop or so, but no need here in Virginia. Horse flies are out and they bit to leave bruises. I recently got another horse and she is being pestered by these horse fly, so I am giving her double dose of the garlic to speed up the effect to help minimise the bites until they completely leave her alone, than I will go back down to the regular 3 scoop dosage.

Bug off garlic by springtime. It's all natural, no preservatives as it should be.

May. 20, 2015, 09:37 AM
I have used Absorbine Ultrashield for several years and had excellent results with the local flies mostly black flies, some green heads and some small black biting flies. Bombers are rare.

It is primarily permethrin which is natural with some pyrethrin which isn't.

For me I use a eucalyptus based spray.

May. 20, 2015, 10:54 AM
I'm another one that uses the stuff in the orange bottles (clac)...both the wipe on cream and spray. I'm also lucky to own several horses who are extremely sensitive and break out in hives with most chemicals...they tolerate Clac.

I've made my own before with skin so soft and essential oils...and that worked a well as anything else.

Been bucked off and almost bucked off more than once from those damn big b-52 bomber types...

May. 20, 2015, 11:54 AM
It is primarily permethrin which is natural with some pyrethrin which isn't.

Merrygoround, I could be wrong but I think you have that backwards. Pyrethrins are derived from plants in the chrysanthemum family. I don't think permethrins exist in nature. Better living through chemistry!

And Skin so Soft is one of the few things that will keep greenheads off. Unfortunately it seems to need reapplication about every 30 minutes.

May. 20, 2015, 12:28 PM
And Skin so Soft is one of the few things that will keep greenheads off. Unfortunately it seems to need reapplication about every 30 minutes.

I'd have to try an dig up the recipe--The base was Skin so Soft. I think maybe white vinegar. And then Citronella oil and Eucalyptas oil that you can get at the health food store.

May. 20, 2015, 03:38 PM
Pyrethrin is the plant - we used to grow it as a crop.

May. 20, 2015, 03:40 PM
Anybody use those yellow tags that are used on cattle. Not in Canada tho. Probably too potent or toxic..