Producers have several options for controlling flies that do not require chemicals
Flies can be a costly problem on a farm or ranch – not only are they annoying, they can stress animals to the point of weight loss, which in turn means lost revenue.
“Normally, growing cattle gain an extra 1.5 pounds per week when horn flies are controlled below the 200 flies per animal threshold,” Dr. Justin Talley, Extension Livestock Entomologist at Oklahoma State University, said.
Producers, want to keep the fly population under control, but how can they do it without the use of chemicals? Luckily, there are some natural solutions.
Fly Predators: One way to holistically manage the fly population on your farm is through the use of fly predators – tiny parasitic wasps that are harmless to humans, plants and livestock, but that wreak havoc on flies. Planet Natural Research Center, a resource for agriculturalists seeking natural and organic solutions, said the female predator seeks out a host pupa, drills through its cocoon and lays several eggs inside it. The resulting parasitoids kill the pupa by consuming it.
These handy little bugs can be ordered online; they arrive in pupal form, and producers simply sprinkle them around manure piles, feeding areas, barns, compost bins, etc. Once the wasps hatch, they immediately begin to seek out fly pupa to lay their eggs in.
The Planet Natural Research Center suggested the predators be introduced in early season, before pesky flies have had a chance to flourish.
It is also recommended to make several releases throughout the season to make the Fly Predators a sustainable pest control solution.
Fly Traps: Fly traps can be a useful way to manage the already established adult fly population. While there are multiple brands and styles of fly traps, the basic principle is the same – each trap has an attractant, and flies are drawn to the trap, fall in or get stuck and die. While it might seem like this doesn’t make an impact in the fly population at first, this method does make a difference. According to the Planet Natural Research Center, the female housefly lives about two and a half months, and lays between 600 and 1,000 eggs during its lifetime. On the average, 12 generations of houseflies are produced in one year. Therefore, one female could be responsible for many thousands of flies. Every female traped prevents hundreds to thousands of flies from hatching. Some popular types of fly traps include milk jug fly traps and sticky fly tape.
Poultry Pest Management: By utilizing some rotational management, chickens will eat fly larvae before it has a chance to hatch. The majority of flies and other pests and parasites are on a three-week hatching cycle, so most producers plan the movements of their flock accordingly. Some types of moveable enclosures for poultry include: chicken tractors, electric netting, cattle panel pens and rolling coops. If raising chickens for meat or for egg production, producers get the added benefit of cutting down on feed costs by using poultry as fly control.
“The most notable benefit of keeping chickens in tractors is knowing what’s in the food fed to the chickens,” Greg Samuel, owner of Portable Livestock Shelters in Seymour, Mo., said. “Their diet is supplemented with protein from insects and grass, cutting down on supplemental feed costs.”
Sanitation Practices: Part of managing flies naturally is not giving them an adequate habitat in the first place. Being proactive with disposal of manure, not letting water sources stagnate, and not overcrowding areas with livestock will greatly reduce fly population and make natural fly control practices more effective.