Help Your Horse Survive the Pests of Summer


flies in horses eyes

We all understand the seasonal annoyance of flies. Unfortunately for horses, they get the brunt of these pests. Arthropods that feed on blood generally affect horses directly or indirectly. These insects can cause horses extreme aggravation and discomfort. 

Pests To Look Out For

Black Fly: These flies often congregate in tremendous numbers around horses. This will cause extreme annoyance and itching. Commonly found inside the ear, they may also feed on the head, neck, chest, and abdomen. Their bite can cause hemorrhage and bloody crusts. The black fly will lay their eggs in damp or wet soil near streams, irrigation ditches, or lakes. The larvae will then hatch and emerge later in the season as the full-grown adult flies. 

Blister Beetles: While these insects do not attack horses, they are extremely toxic and can contaminate alfalfa hay. Blister beetles are found in hay produced in the western and southwestern states. If you ship hay in from this part of the country, make sure to inspect it for blister beetles. 

Bot Fly: The bot fly is an extremely serious pest for horses. This species lay its eggs on horses. Where they lay these eggs, varies as well as how they hatch. In general, they lay their eggs on the forelegs, shoulders, and lips during the summer and fall. The eggs hatch when the horse licks or rubs them. 

Once in the mouth, the small bot flies burrow themselves into the gums and tongue where they remain for about one month and then migrate into the stomach. Once they enter the stomach, the larvae will attach to the mucus membrane and remain there for eight to ten months. Once they are ready to mature, the flies will emerge in six weeks. They detach themselves and pass through the feces. Outside of their host, these flies will pupate. They then mate and the adult female lays eggs and their cycle will begin all over again. While these flies do not bite, the egg-laying is annoying to the horse as it damages the stomach lining.  In extreme cases, bot flies can cause stomach rupture or fatal colic if they block the stomach valve to the small intestine. 


Flies in horse's eye

Face Fly and House Fly: These small black flies are non-biting but annoying pests. The face fly closely resembles the common housefly but is a more persistent pest. They feed on the tear ducts of the eyes or on wounds or cuts. Both of these flies breed in fresh animal manure. 

Gnats: Gnats have a painful bite and may cause hypersensitivity, which will cause a sweet-itch along the base of the mane and tail and over the withers, chest, and facial areas. Lesions consist of self-inflicted hair loss or excoriations with crusting. Gnat larvae develop in aquatic habitats and decaying vegetation. 

Horn Fly: While the horn fly is small in size, they are quite deadly. These flies suck the blood of the horses and are a huge nuisance to pastured horses. These pests feed while hanging down on the sides and legs of horses.  


Flies and close up of horse

Horse Fly: The horse flies that attack is only the females. Their bite is extremely painful and will also cause a flow of blood that attracts house flies. The horsefly is rather plentiful in Pennsylvania which is what inspired us to create a product that will keep pests away. 

Keep reading to find out the benefits of this product. 

Horseflies carry equine infectious anemia. These flies populate quickly, laying their eggs in damp or wet soil then within a week, the larvae hatch and emerge into the adult fly ready to feast.  

Mite: The mite is a parasite that is usually uncommon in horses. However, there are two forms of mites that can affect your horse. The mange mite and the psoroptic mange mite. Both these mites feed on skin and tissue fluids by burrowing into the epidermis and living on the skin’s surface. Symptoms include irritation, itching, and scratching. 

Mosquito: There is no denying that these are one of the most painful and annoying pests out there. When it comes to horses, however, they get quite the brunt of mosquito attacks. These insects feed on horses in great numbers and can produce significant blood losses and annoyance. Mosquitoes often carry various diseases that often need vaccines to prevent these pests from transmitting infections to your equine. These pests reproduce in large numbers and can fly several miles from their breeding sites to feed. 

Stable Fly: This insect is a small grayish black fly that has a very painful bite. It pierces the horse’s skin and sucks blood for a food source. Similar to the Horse and Face fly, Stable flies can all transmit disease, infections, and stomach worms. This results in a lesion similar in appearance to summer sores. These larvae remain in the wound without maturing and cause inflammation and infection. 

Tick: Female ticks lay 1000-300 tick eggs after they detach from their host. Horses in the U.S. serve as a primary host for two species of ticks and a secondary host for 14 other species Ticks carry diseases such as Lyme disease found in many eastern states that can cause permanent nerve damage, severely affecting your horse. It can also cause weight loss, chronically stiff and swollen joints, and inflammation of the eye.


Person spraying horse

Control Methods to Manage Pests

Aquatic Breeding Sites: Puddles, tires, and irrigation ditches are common breeding sites for many of these pests. Develop a drainage system to prevent standing water in irrigated pastures. Try to eliminate other areas where water accumulates. 

Biological Control: This method allows you to use other organisms to reduce populations of arthropod pests. Examples of good organisms to use as a control method are barn swallows and bats. 

Barn swallows feed on flying insects. Give them access to a ledge or a cross beam to build their nests in your barn and they will repay you by doing their part to keep the insect population under control. 

Bats are notorious insect predators and will eat half their weight in insects every night. They prey on mosquitoes, crickets, grasshoppers, and flies. A small bat will collect up to 600 insects an hour. Installing a bat house high in a nearby tree is a great place to start to bring in bats to do some pest control.  


Horses covered in blankets

Blanketing Your Horse: Blankets will often help prevent insects from landing and feasting on horses. Make sure you remember to still look under them to see if any are hiding there. If you use these as a control method, make sure to spray before you blanket and after you blanket. If using RK Topical Spray, no sheets are needed!

Environmental Sanitation: Proper manure management and removal is key to managing these pests. Stable flies and house flies breed in mixtures of manure, spilled feed, and decaying bedding around the barn. To eliminate these breeding sites, spread the manure regularly and prevent the accumulation of other wastes. Several pesticides can be used on manure piles to prevent maggot development.


three horses in stable

Stabling Horses: During peak fly activity, allowing your horse to spend time in the stables can provide you equine some relief. Screening stable windows and doors will reduce interior fly activity. If stabling is not feasible, try individual protection devices such as ear nets, face masks, and repellent tags or tapes. 


Equine med surg RK topical spray

RK Topical Spray 

RK Topical Spray gives professional long-lasting protection to stop ticks, mosquitoes, gnats, and flies. RK Topical Spray will help avoid skin damage due to summer eczema and hives, as well as decrease the risk of tick diseases and blood loss from bites. To see how RK Topical Spray compares to fly sprays check out our “In-Depth” section of our products online. The abridged version: don’t spend more on fly sprays when you get less! RK Topical Spray allows your horse to stomp less in the field so that they keep their shoes on and do not crack up their hoof walls.

The special sprayer attachment covers four times the area of regular bottles. This allows you to cover your horse completely easily and quickly. This is a great product that is guaranteed to help protect your horse from these nasty summer pests. Head to our website to place an order. 

*Minimum Order of Two Bottles*