Saturday, June 28, 2008

Integrated Pest Management, Part 2


Picking up manure on a frequent basis helps control fly populations as well as internal parasites, but as a whole, flying critters are almost impossible to eradicate entirely. Poop-scooping is an obvious step in controlling fly populations. Here are a few other things TREES does:

All of our residents eat “mush,” which is simply Triple Crown Senior Formula soaked in warm water to an oatmeal-like consistency. Since many elders tend to drop feed as a result of dental challenges, the mush ends up on walls, in stall corners, smeared on stall gates and on the horses themselves. Even after it has dried, leftover mush attracts a lot of flies. To combat this problem, a whisk broom and dustpan is always nearby. Walls and gates are brushed off after meals, corners are swept, and horses’ faces and legs are cleaned when necessary. Flies are experts are finding the tiniest bits of leftovers, so all feed dishes are removed from stalls and rinsed or scrubbed after each meal, even when they appear clean.

Because flies can find bits of food the humans miss, many TREES residents wear fly masks and boots during the day. It seems that no amount of grooming or washing can remove every mush molecule once Sonny or Rienzi smear breakfast all over their lower legs. Fly masks andboots do not affect the fly population, but they do keep the horses more comfortable.
Another control measure involves good old-fashioned fly strips. Strips are hung in stalls and run-in sheds, especially near feeding stations. They do a good job, but need to be replaced often. Fly strips are useless once full.

“Fly Predators” also seem to be effective. We’ve noticed a drop in numbers since beginning to use them, but because our neighbors have both horses and cattle, we are visited by their flies. Since fly predator orders are based on the number of horses on a property, next year we will order based on both farms’ populations and place predators along the property line.

Mosquitoes and other flying pestilence

While flies are a big problem around many farms, mosquitoes warrant attention too. Several very unpleasant, sometimes fatal, equine diseases are transmitted by mosquitoes. West Nile Virus is one example. During wet years like this one (our area had the second wettest May on record this spring) it’s hard to do anything about puddles, but under normal circumstances, there are a few easy steps toward reducing mosquito populations. Most obvious is to eliminate standing water. Turn empty containers upside down so they don’t collect water. Don’t allow old tires to collect on the property. If you maintain bird baths, dump and refill them twice a week. Horses’ water tanks and troughs should be dumped and refilled twice weekly as well.

TREES also encourages resident bluebirds, barn swallows, bats, toads, and frogs. As a matter of fact ALL insect-eating critters are welcome here! According to “
Chiroptera: Life History & Ecology,” “Insect-eating bats are supremely good at what they do: a single little brown bat can catch and eat 600 mosquitoes in an hour.” Bluebirds Forever tells us that “bluebirds eat large quantities of insects, in fact 60-80% of their diet is insects.”Currently, only one bluebird house graces our fences, but plans to mount several more are underway. Bat houses will also be added this year. Toads have voluntarily taken up residence under all of the water tanks, requiring a little extra care when cleaning the tanks. Some toads can consume well over half their body weight in insects each day. Barn swallows often nest in sheds, run-ins and barns. BirdWeb says “Barn Swallows eat mostly flying insects, especially flies…..”


Traveller’s Rest has been lucky in the tick department. For the last five years, the only control measure required has been our “tick buffers.” The grass outside all fences is mowed very short. This seems to keep the ticks in the woods or in unused meadows, whether on our property or the neighbors. Walk in the woods or “tall grass,” though and all bets are off!

TREES’ pest control measures require a little extra work each day, but since most are free or cost very little, it seems worth it to provide a more comfortable, and cleaner, greener, living space for the elders.

We’d love to hear other ideas. Please tell us about your integrated pest management techniques

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