It has begun.
I went out to check Oakley and her new calf a couple of days ago and noticed a smattering of small flies already sticking to her back and flanks.
(By the way, WE HAVE A NEW CALF!)
But back to my story…
Animals make manure, and manure attracts flies. LOTS of flies. Our city friends are always a bit shocked to see the sticky fly strips hanging from the ceiling in my kitchen when they visit (oh-so-classy, but necessary….), or how any exposed plate of food is instantly dive-bombed by dozens of flies during a summer BBQ.
It’s truly an all-out war here in the summertime.
The truth of the matter is that we’ll never completely eradicate flies from our homestead, and that’s not my goal anyway.
However, over the years I’ve developed a battle plan to help control and reduce the massive fly population, and I think it’s working. It’s not perfect, by any means, but it makes fly season slightly more bearable. Here are the details of my two-pronged approach:
Natural Strategies for Farm Fly Control
(This post contains affiliate links)
Farm Fly Control Part 1 – Reduce Fly Larvae
1. Fly Predators/Parasitic Flies
This is my second year using fly predators, and I’m excited to see the results now that we have the first year under our belts. Basically, you’re fighting the bad bugs (flies) with good bugs (predators). I like this concept, as it controls flies BEFORE they ever hatch, and does not require any toxic chemicals or sprays.
What are Fly Predators?
Fly predators, or parasitic wasps, are natural enemies of flies (but they don’t bother people or animals). They lay their eggs in fly pupae, thereby eliminating flies before they ever have a chance to hatch. According to the Organic Agriculture Center of Canada, “…parasitic wasps can contribute to 50% fewer flies when used in combination with adequate manure removal.”
How do Fly Predators Work?
After you place your order, you’ll get a lovely little baggie of predator pupae (cocoon things) in the mail. Let the bag sit for a few days until the tiny predators begin to hatch, then deposit them in key spots (aka manure piles) around your barnyard.
The adult predators feast on the pupa of the annoying flies, and you get a fly relief program that doesn’t require pesticides. One caveat: chickens like to eat the predator pupae, so try to deposit them in an area where your chickens don’t have easy access.
If you want to try predators, you’ll likely want to order them starting NOW, and then add several more shipments throughout the rest of the summer. I just released my first batch of the year this week.
Where do I Get Fly Predators?
I have been getting mine from Spalding Labs. They have this sweet calculator tool that helps you figure out how many fly predators you need (according to how many animals you have), and they also have a lot of helpful info on their website which I’ve referenced numerous times as I’ve introduced fly predators to my homestead.
2. Manure Management
It’s a simple equation:
Less manure = fewer flies.
Manure is simply a fact of life when you have animals, so manure management is key. (Hey, that’d be a super book title, wouldn’t it? “Manage Your Manure”…)
Flies adore poop, especially the wet stuff, so do whatever you possibly can to remove it or reduce it in your barnyard. For us, this includes:
- Regular barn/pen cleaning (although sometimes I’m better about this than others…)
- Mounding the manure in a large enough pile (far away from the barn) to allow it to heat up. The heat makes it a less hospitable spot to lay eggs, and it also produces beautiful compost.
- Spreading manure in a thin layer in our pasture (using a manure spreader). This also helps to fertilize the grass.
- Dragging the pasture (with a tractor/drag) to break up manure piles, dry them out, and further reduce places for flies to lay eggs.
Farm Fly Control Part Two: Capture/Repel Adult Flies
1. Homemade Fly Sprays
When July rolls around, all the critters start to look just plain miserable as they fight the flying masses… This is when I break out my DIY fly sprays and use them liberally.
I generally spray down my milk cow when I milk her each morning and will grab the horses and spray them if I see them hanging out in the barn during the day.
I’ve tried a number of DIY recipes over the years, but this one is my favorite homemade fly spray recipe.
2. Fly Traps & Sticky Tape
Last, but not least, fly traps and those lovely golden sticky tape strips are surprisingly effective.
You can easily make your own fly trap, or they are fairly reasonably priced at the local feed store. I fill mine with water and a bit of sweet, slightly rotten fruit (like banana or watermelon)
Fly strips aren’t super glamorous, but they totally work, you can probably find them at your local feed store. Hang them from the ceiling and change them often– they’ll fill up fast…
3. Plant Farm Fly Control Plants & Herbs
There are plants and herbs that can be planted around manure dump sights or entrances of barns and chicken coops (Here are an additional 6 Strategies for Fly Control in the Chicken Coop)that naturally repel adult flies. If you can’t plant them directly in the ground then plant them in containers and place them around different areas.
Fly repelling plants and herbs:
- Bay Leaves
Note: Not only do these plants help repel flies they also add a bit of color and can double as culinary herbs.
4. Use a Venus Fly Trap or Two
This natural way to control flies isn’t exactly conventional, but it does seem to work if these plants are placed on windowsills. You can plant these plants outdoors and they do well in warmer climates but if you live in northern climates you will need to take extra precautions to prevent your plants from freezing.
You can learn more about how to care for Venus Fly Traps Here.
These are far from a quick-fix solution, but that’s my farm fly control battle plan in a nutshell–hopefully, it can help you develop your own as well. May the odds be ever in your favor as you battle the bugs this year. 😉
More Homestead Management Articles
- Managing Livestock in the Winter
- How to Go on Vacation When You Have a Homestead
- Fly Control in the Chicken Coop
- 30 Essential Oil Hacks for Homesteading
Listen to the Old Fashioned On Purpose podcast episode #9 on this topic HERE.