We all know how annoying flies can be. However, unlike us humans, horses can’t do much to prevent these insects from being a nuisance. When we are bothered by an insect, we can simply solve the problem by using a swatter or spray. A horse, on the other hand has little protection, so it’s important for the owner to take action when needed.

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When a fly bites a horse the skin can be pierced, and in some cases, a fly will even feed on the blood. Another common problem is the secretion left by flies around the horse’s eyes and nose.

As flies naturally carry and spread disease, this can result in an allergic reaction. Flies can transmit disease and causing additional problems for the horse. Adult flies may feed on blood, saliva, mucus, and or tears. It is important to know what kind of species you are dealing with, as this will properly allow you to know how to prevent the spread of parasites, bacteria, and viruses.

Flies that bite

These flies are hazardous as they feed on animal blood. This group of species includes sandflies, mosquitoes, biting midgets, black flies, deer, and horseflies.
Fly bites on horses can be painful and could induce allergic reactions. Although fly bites on horses are not usually dangerous, it is good to know what to look for to prevent a further nuisance.

Biting midgets
Gnats or biting midgets are sometimes known as “no see ums”. These insects can be commonly found around areas where bodies of water are prevalent, such as moist soil, ponds, and streams. Midget bites can be painful and can transmit a parasite that causes dry patches and lumps on the skin of the horse, referred to as “onchocerciasis”.

Midgets become a problem in the hotter months of the year and become most active before and during dusk. The preferred areas targeted by midgets are around the back and belly of the horse. Horses that are allergic to midget bites will get irritated and scratch and rub at areas that have been targeted, which leads to hair loss, skin thickening, and abrasions.

A vet can provide treatment for midget bite wounds and will recommend midget control methods. As midgets are weak fliers, reducing air movement will reduce midget exposure.

Black flies
As black flies are tiny and therefore mesh screens may not be effective. Black flies will become more prevalent in colder, subarctic zones, although there are black fly species that are attracted by more tropical conditions.

Controlling black fly bites on horses is difficult, due to the distance black flies travel. However, some control is possible using insecticides on horses.

Horse flies
Horse flies are easier to identify due to their size and large eyes. Female horse flies will feed on blood. Horse fly bites on horses can be dangerous to horses due to their ability to transmit diseases like anaplasmosis, anthrax, tularemia, along with equine infectious anemia.

Horse flies are very difficult to control. Although insecticide will kill horse flies, it may not be that effective due to the short amount of time horse flies stay on horses. Larger doses of insecticide may be needed. A vet will be needed for advice on the correct doses of additional insecticide. Flytraps can be effective if the horse is in a controllable area.

Although they are small, mosquitoes will devour larger quantities of blood from horses, compared to other blood feeders.

Although mosquitoes are known for causing the spread of diseases such as malaria and yellow fever, they also cause the spread of viral encephalitides disease.

Mosquitoes are very hard to keep control of, as insecticides and repellents are not effective.
Eliminating signs of water in an open area will help limit mosquitoes.

Flies that don’t bite

These flies don’t feed on blood. Rather than biting a horse, they will instead feed on bodily horse secretions. Although they may not bite, they can still spread diseases to the horse.

Eye gnats
Eye gnats can also be referred to as “eye flies” are tiny in size and congregate around the horse’s eyes. Eye gnats are attracted to horse secretions and will only affect the horse in the spring and fall seasons.

Although eye gnats don’t bite, they can still cause scars and wounds in the horse.

Using insect repellents can provide some temporary relief for horses.

How to prevent fly bites

Sprays and lotions: The best solution is to prevent flies from landing on your horse. Although it can be a process of trial and error, you can use fly sprays and lotions. Horse sprays and lotions can come in the form of DEET ingredients, while other sprays and lotions can be made from more natural ingredients, which will help to reduce flies.

Fly rugs: Fly rugs are useful for hotter days. Along with keeping your horse from overheating, a good horse rug should be lightweight, light in color, and possess cooling properties. Additional features should allow for proper breathability and maximum sun protection.

Fly masks: Fly masks cover the horse’s face with a mesh-like veil, while the ears are covered in fabric. Fly masks are the perfect solution for more sensitive horses.

Additional tips:
You should get rid of puddles if they are many throughout the pasture.
Horses should be wormed, which will help to prevent species such as botflies.

Horse fly bite treatment

If you see a bite on your horse in a one-off situation, then gently rub the area with cool water with two tablespoons of salt.
If your horse has multiple bites then by cleaning the area with some horse shampoo which will help to elevate the area of irritation and help to remove unwanted bacteria.

If you are dealing with a wasp sting, then a solution such as vinegar could be used to reduce swelling.
As bee stings linger, you could gently try to remove the leftovers from the sting with tweezers. If the bee has left its stinger deeper on the horses skin, then it will gradually be shed along with the rest of the skin.