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Black Flies: Dangerous Nuisances for Horses

It has probably already tormented the dinosaurs: the black fly has been on earth at least since the Jurassic and has since developed into around 2000 different species worldwide. About 50 species are active in the world, which harasses our horses, especially in the mornings and evenings at dusk. Together with the gnitz it is considered to be the trigger for sweet itch and can steal the last nerve of horses and riders. Read here what the black fly does and how you can protect your horse.

Black Flies: This is Dangerous for Horses

If a horse is attacked by black flies, it can have fatal consequences. Not all horses are equally sensitive. Icelanders, for example, are often particularly sensitive.

Blood Thinners in the Mosquito’s Saliva Trigger an Allergic Reaction

The 2mm – 6mm large, fly-like beasts silently attack their victims. You put a stab and then bite it open with your saw-knife-like mouthparts (mandibles) to form a small wound. As so-called pool suckers, they do not suck the blood of their host animals, but rather they drink from the pool of blood that collects in the wound.

These injuries are very uncomfortable because of their frayed edges. In addition, the black fly also salivates a kind of blood thinner in the host’s blood. In this way, it prevents the blood from clotting and thus the mosquito’s meal would be over.

Itching, Sweet Itch, Swelling: a Vicious Circle Begins

In response, the horse releases histamines in order to fend off the exogenous substances from the insect’s saliva. Unfortunately, it causes extremely severe itching. The horses begin to rub and scratch themselves, which often leads to purulent inflammation of the affected areas of the skin.

This creates a vicious circle that can trigger sweet itch in many horses. But even without sweet itch, this nuisance can spoil the pasture or even the ride. The bite can cause swelling, bruising, and, in rare cases, blood poisoning. Fortunately, the black fly does not seem to transmit any dangerous pathogens in our latitudes.

Prefers to Attack the Sensitive Parts of the Horse’s Body

The black fly preferentially attacks parts of the body where the fur is vertical or very thin. That is why the insects often sit on the mane crest, tail, head, ears, or stomach. Exactly where our horses are most sensitive anyway. The skin is quickly chafed in these areas and dirt and pathogens can penetrate the wound.

How to Protect Your Horse

Fly Sprays and Eczema Blankets Protect the Horse

Black flies recognize their potential host by both their smell and their appearance. That is why a combination of mosquito repellent and special fly rugs is the most effective protection. To prevent the mosquito from being attracted to the smell of horse droppings, the paddocks should be excreted regularly. Regular washing with horse-friendly shampoos can also help to reduce the horse’s body odor and sweat. So that the annoying insects no longer recognize the horse by its appearance, zebra rugs are used or the horses are painted with special pens with patterns that are not typical for horses. Very sensitive horses can be protected all over their body with eczema rugs and fly hoods.

Do Not Bring Horses to the Paddock in the Morning and in the Evening

The black fly is particularly active in the early morning hours and at dusk. Therefore, sensitive horses should not be brought to pasture at this time. Since the black fly avoids rooms, it is advisable to leave the horses in the stable during this time.

Avoid Paddocks Next to Rivers and Streams

Since the black fly larvae develop in running water, horses should not stand in pastures near rivers or streams if possible. If this cannot be avoided, the horses must be protected against the black flies with fly sprays and flies or eczema blankets.

People Should Protect Themselves Too

Since the nasty little insects take a liking to human blood, riders should also protect themselves. Known consequences of black fly bites in humans can be headaches, dizziness, nausea, tiredness, and swelling of the affected parts of the body. Effective mosquito sprays that are suitable for horses and riders are available on the market.

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