Last edited January 27, 2008
Me and Pickle Felt Lake
The flys are here, and this year worse than ever. The mild temperatures of the winter, and all of the rain have allowed the flys to over-winter and also created more, moist fly breeding grounds.
When we first bought our rural property in Gilroy, Ca, seven years ago, I thought the the flys were bad. The small house we planned to live in had not been habitated by humans for three years. All of the windows were cracked or broken and the ceiling, walls and cabinets were flecked dark brown from the billions of flys that had left their excrement over the years. It took two coats of Kilz white paint to cover the brown spots and make the ceiling white. At night, we used the shop vacuum to suck at least a hundred flys off of the ceilings and walls. There had been no fly control on the property. There had been no fly control on the adjacent parcels of surrounding 200 acres.
Over the first year we cleaned up seven 50-yard dumpsters of refuse and recycle. For those who are unfamiliar with garbage volume, 50 yard dumpsters are the big,blue metal boxes the approximate size of a school bus. During the next few years, we put in a lot of hard work and sweat-labor, fixing windows and screens, and integrating a lifestyle that incorporated natural fly control to bring about a noticeable difference in the quantity and appearance of flys. We began composting all or most of our garbage, composting most of our manure, using natural microbials to aid in the composting and decomposition of manure as well as purchasing and releasing beneficial insects. We worked in our native habitat to reduce fly breeding areas, all with the minimal use of poisons and pesticides.
Because I experienced such a first-hand benefit during those first few years living here, and saw such a dramatic improvement in our home environment using natural and ecological fly control, I really became a believer in natural fly control.
I began researching and reading articles about composting, beneficial insects and natural fly control. Here are just some of the tid bits that I have found very helpful.
Turning your composting manure is a must. For a horse property, you need a tractor. Wet manure is extremely heavy and bulky.
Getting air or oxygen deep into the compost is a must. Turning the pile helps this. Another inexpensive way to do this is to use pvc drainage pipes when you are piling your manure. Bury the pipes as you dump, When you turn the pile, leave one end of the pipe exposed. Pvc pipes are surprisingly sturdy and crushproof as well as inexpensive. If your compost is in your pasture, over time the exposed pvc pipes have the benefit of providing wonderful itching posts for your horses.
Keeping your compost damp in the dry summer months is critical. If the manure is dry, it does not rot. After watering the pile, even in the summer, you can see little heat waves emanating from the top of the compost heap the day after you water.
Not allowing the compost to be too soggy in the winter. Too soggy means that more waste will leach out of the pile into the environment instead of breaking down into more simple natural compounds. Turning the pile, drainage pipes, the location, and lining the downhill side of the compost pile with straw bales helps filter waste water, divert waste water and keep your pile from becoming too soggy.
FOFO - First-on First-out, organize your pile and mucking. Composting takes time. You will defeat all your good efforts if you put fresh waste with older half composted waste. Put fresh waste on one end of the pile and let the other end of the pile age.
Retire the pile at some time. This means you will need more than one location to put your waste. Let one pile completely finish composting when you begin a new pile.
Do a little research on your weather extremes and on the weather that is tolerated by the varieties of beneficial insects. Initially I purchased two species of parasites. I really did notice a difference in the flys in our house. When I started researching, I found that the house fly is different than the pasture fly. The parasites that I purchased had not been found to stop biting flys, or the annoying types of pasture flys that buzzed in the sun on the horses. These species did reduce house flys, however.
I tend to search the .edu sites when I want researched information. Through my research, I found a vendor who sold 11 species of fly predators; more predator varieties meant more flys parasitized. I also read about the weather extremes that some of the predators could or could not withstand. One of the .edu articles listed different vendors, different species of parasites sold. I was able to make a better decision about what vendor best suited my needs. Sure enough, when I started putting out a greater variety of parasites, I noticed less flys around the horses, especially for the first few days after releasing the beneficial insects.
This year I also used beneficial nematodes. Again, if I had just read the advertising or the product labels, I would have wasted my precious efforts and my hard earned pennies. I again found several .edu sites that had great research on beneficial nematode species and the environments in which they thrived. The weather and temperature is very important in order for these little micro-creatures to survive and do their work. I saved my little vial of nematodes until the temperatures were perfect and I only put them in places where the researched articles said they would survive the longest. The nematodes dramatically reduced the flys in the matted paddock areas. Because temperature, moisture and sunlight affect the viability of the nematodes, I was only able to place them out one time only.
Selective Poison and Insecticide
During conversations with my bug vendors, I asked questions about insecticides. One vendor told me using insecticide should not affect their parasites because their parasites were only active at night, so fly spray on the horses was not a problem.
Another vendor said that although the goal was to use environmental controls, and definitely not to put poison on ourselves or our pets, there were very specific that insecticides should be used on vertical surfaces. They said, flies are a "warming species" and said if I went out in the early morning sunlight, I would see flies congregating on certain vertical surfaces--barn walls, garbage cans, fence rails. If these surfaces were carefully treated with a residual poison, specific to killing flies, this would help control flies without killing the beneficials or poisoning the animals or our children. You might guess that I purchased from this company. This was a very specialized company belonging to some well-known and published entomologists. They were very knowledgeable about fly predators and suggested other vendors for all other types of environmental control that were outside of their field of expertise and interest.
When I was reading my research, I was fascinated to learn about the various insects--dung beetles, parasitic wasps, worms-- that occurred naturally in my geographic region of the world. Some scientists thought that in the future, manure decomposition and fly control could be effectively managed at large midwestern cattle dairy ranches with both natural and imported insects. Flies can never be eliminated, they have an important function in nature, annoying though they are. The goal is balance. The cattle and dairy cows are consumables to feed humans. The meat and dairy industry needs to make a profit while we consume meat and dairy.
Our world, our environment, our pets, our children and even us, ourselves are consumables. We are consuming and being consumed all in the same breath. We need to mindfully care for our world, our bodies and our pets. Comfort for one that comes at the cost of any of the other is careless spending and consuming. If we poison our water and our earth, if we consume it while we cater to our needs to create an artificially comfortable environment, one poisoned free of flying and crawling fears and discomforts then we teach self destructiveness and selfish consumption. If we strive to balance between learning a natural way of exploiting what our environment uses to replenish, regenerate and recycle itself and between tolerance and acceptance of the gradual consumption of our very beings, then we consume the passing of time with respect, wonder and joy in a effort to leave in-tact, restore or improve that which we leave behind in our consumption for those whose comfort we care about and for those who will consume in our paths.
More Reading and References....
UC Davis Entomology -
A good identification table in PDF, from Australia, but great!
|Lifecycle of a fly parasitic wasp|
|This is a fly egg and the pteromalid beneficial insect. This fly egg is at most 1/4 inch, so the parasitic wasp is about 1/16 of an inch.|
Nasonia Homepage, just for the Nasonia vitripennis
|PVC pipes and pallets to make manure compost bin|
Good bin building instructions for composts
|This is a bag of predators, I took the picture by my boots(Wm sz 7) so you can see the relative size of the bag. They are shipped US postoffice in a brown box.||This is a close-up shot of the bag. You can see the bugs that are already alive, they are the little black specs.||Here is a big close up of one little bug in the bag!|
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© Christine Amber, MA, EquestrainTraining.com 1998 - 2008
Equestrian training.com is a small, personal horse training barn and riding club in Gilroy, Ca. (South San Francisco Bay Area, Silicon Valley) where owner/trainer Christine Amber trains horses and riders. Equestrian Training's focus is teaching adults and teems about, caring for, riding , keeping and owning horses as well as developing safe, strong, and sensible riding skills. You can take private riding lessons in English or Western Riding. You can join the riding club which emphasizes horses as a lifestyle that encompasses exercise, recreation, fun and a significant time commitment of three rides or group lesson a week. Equestrian Training's horse training focuses on foundations that develop safety, relationship, willingness, obedience and balance in an athletic horse.