Warm seasons like summer and spring are probably the best seasons to own a horse.
With dry and sunny weather comes long riding sessions outdoors, enjoying the fresh air and scenery during some bonding time between you and your horse.
However, with all that outdoor time comes a price – botflies!
Botflies are a pest that plague humans and horse owners alike. They can make your horse seriously ill and not only is it horrible to see your horse in agony, but treating your horse for botflies can leave you with some expensive vet bills.
But how do horses become infected in the first place?
We are going to be looking at botflies, how and why they are attracted to horses and stables, and even leave you with a few ways to reduce the risks of botflies making themselves at home inside your horse.
Take a look down below for some very helpful information when it comes to botflies and horses!
Botflies And What They Do
Botflies are a pest that comes from a family of flies known as Oestridae. They are usually brown in color with a black stripe, and are rather large and fluffy.
Their larvae are known as internal parasites – meaning that they grow their eggs, hatch and live inside or on the flesh of mammals like horses.
Female botflies will stop at nothing to lay their eggs and will infect hosts including other small insects, cattle, horses or even humans.
Their eggs are small and yellow, resembling small flecks of paint. If a female botfly manages to reach your horse, it will lay its eggs on your horses’ legs and underside.
But the infection does not stop there – these areas will begin to feel itchy for the horse, and it will attempt to nuzzle and lick at the skin to try and scratch the itch.
This can lead to your horse ingesting botfly eggs where they will hatch and grow as larvae inside your horses’ stomach.
The larvae will pass out eventually through manure, but your horses will definitely suffer a range of issues if this infection is not treated.
Larvae on the legs and underside will bite and crawl inside the skin causing serious irritation and possible infections.
The larvae on the inside of your horse can cause stomach ulcers, colic, and even blockages if the horse is seriously invaded by a large number of eggs.
The whole point of the botfly laying and hatching eggs on a mammal host is so the larvae can use the host to steal nutrition. This can lead your horse to lose weight, lack appetite, and fall into a state of poor body and hair coat condition.
Overall, botflies can make your horse seriously ill – but what attracts them in the first place?
What Attracts Botflies
Female botflies start to lay their eggs in the summer as they like the hot weather and warm temperatures. Those eggs will then hatch in the following spring,
so the warmer seasons that we enjoy so much are also the prime time for botflies. This is when they will be at their highest numbers and on the prowl for somewhere to lay their eggs.
This means that botflies will travel far and wide until they find a horse. They may be attracted to places that smell of manure – a sure sign of nearby potential hosts – so bad pasture management can attract botflies.
Other than that, there is nothing that really attracts botflies – they fly around during warm seasons looking for horses, staying close to areas with lots of manure.
They are not attracted to lights nor are they more commonly found near bodies of water or woods. Botflies will get around until they find a horse.
Because of this, it makes preventing botflies a little more tricky. The only want to completely protect your horse would be to lock them inside during the warm seasons when botflies numbers are up.
However, it is not fair to lock your horse indoors to try and avoid attracting botflies by going outside – so when it comes to preventing botflies, you will have to try other methods that will help keep your horse happy and safe.
First up when it comes to preventing botflies is to keep your pastures clean and remove manure from paddocks as often as possible.
This not only will hopefully decrease the number of botflies attracted to your stables, but will also kill any botflies living in the manure.
You can also spray your horses with an equine insect spray. This will deter most bugs from your horse and it is definitely a good place to start. This method does require constant respraying as horses will sweat off the insecticide.
You can also put up fly traps to catch botflies before they lay their eggs, and dress your horse in a fly sheet and fly socks so botflies are less likely to land on their underside and legs and lay their eggs.
But the most important thing when it comes to preventing botflies is that you ensure that your horses’ worming schedule is up to date.
Your horse should be wormed in fall/spring about one month after the bot fly season has ended. Use a worming paste that includes Ivermectin that helps ensure the larvae are killed.
By ensuring that your horse is wormed during the right times, this means that even if your horse is infected, it will not suffer from further health problems as the larvae will be dealt with.
You can also try to remove the eggs yourself from your horse, but this requires a lot of time and equipment such as bot knives and insecticide.
This will further protect your horse from the situation worsening, so if you do spot any eggs on your horse, we recommend you try carefully removing the eggs and killing them.
So how do you get botflies?
Botflies are more commonly around during the warm season and will be attracted to your horses through the smell of manure.
They are relentless, so preventing botflies from infecting your horse requires a lot of persistence and maintenance.
Keep your stalls and paddocks clean of manure, treat your horse and ensure that they are dewormed at the appropriate times.
This will help prevent your horse from feeling any side effects of botfly infection, keeping them fit and healthy during the botfly season.
Follow this advice through and hopefully, you will have less botflies to deal with and your horses will enjoy a happy summer!