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Horsefly bites – what can I do? Autumn Tips

While flies may not seem like the most intimidating of pests- especially when speaking of creatures as large and powerful as horses- they are still a considerable threat in large numbers and so it is important to be aware of them, especially around this time of year.


This charming photo was taken by Wynand Basson


While most types of horseflies will enter a larval stage during the winter months, they will remain active for the first few months of Autumn (they are most active during the Summer, but like most pests will linger until the weather has become too inhospitable). As such, there are several things to be aware of regarding these small but annoying creatures.

The first thing to note is that horseflies seem attracted to powerful scents, carbon dioxide and large, darkly-colored objects. That will include the vast majority of horses, though research has noted that white horses are strangely less likely to be a target for the pests, so that last point may offer a little comfort to some owners.

Only female horseflies bite their victims as they require an intake of blood to fuel their reproduction cycle- males lack both the desire and means to do so. A horsefly bite is noticeably painful, and so can be taken as a useful (if unwanted) sign that the insects surrounding your stables are indeed horseflies.

One important thing to remember with regards to horsefly bites is that while painful, the species is known for being able to land, feed and leave before the pain of the bite occurs. So while your horse will let you know it’s been bitten, there likely won’t be time to catch the culprit in the act.

Though the trauma and blood loss to your pet will be a cause for concern, the true danger of these insects lies in the diseases they can carry. Like all forms of fly, Horseflies can carry blood borne infections such as the Equine Infectious Anaemia Virus (EIAV), which can cause fatigue, fever, and even death in some cases. Pregnant mares will also likely lose their young if the disease is not handled swiftly.

But what can be done to deter these pests? Fortunately, AniForte offers a powerful deterrent in the form of AniForte® Horsefly-EX Spray, which is designed to not only to repel flies, mosquitoes and other insects, but acts as a sunscreen for your horse as well, all without the use of invasive chemicals or irritants. Perfect for keeping your pet safe during Summer riding season!


Advice for horse owners during Autumn

-While prevention is better than cure, horsefly bites should be treated immediately if they occur. In a single day, an unprotected horse can lose up to 300ml of blood from these pests- enough to leave them sickly, frail and potentially even lethal in some cases.

-Horseflies thrive in wet environments, so ensuring your stables are warm and dry can help, though it’s generally wiser to use a prophylaxis such as AniForte’s Horsefly EX Spray to ensure they keep their distance.

-Horseflies enter a larval stage during the Winter, and as adults of the species only live a few days the older generation will perish shortly into the colder months of the year.

While prevention is generally the best cure, treatment of a horsefly bite involves several steps, which we will detail below.

Identifying the bite

Horsefly bites tend to resemble large ulcers surrounded by small bumps. Be sure to check the legs, neck, withers and underside of your horse as these are the areas most commonly targeted.

Treating the bite

Apply an ice pack or chilled salt water to the wound. Some horse shampoos are chemically designed to help prevent infection and lessen skin irritation, though this will likely only be needed for areas with multiple bites. If your horse is licking or biting the area after treatment, the skin is likely itchy or irritated. Consult your local vet for preventatives if this continues.

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