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Pest Control

7 Fly Control Myths

Keeping insects away from your horse and out of your barn can seem an exercise in futility at times. While there are loads of fly-control products on the market, everyone seems to have a theory about what else can be done to keep bugs at bay.
Here’s the down-and-dirty truth about what doesn’t (and does!) keep bugs from bothering your equine friends.

Theory: Placing a penny in water in a resealable baggie and hanging it from a doorway will keep flies from entering your barn.

Conclusion: False. While the thought process behind this theory is intriguing, the method sadly doesn’t work. It’s purported that the copper penny in the water creates a prismatic effect on a fly’s eyesight, and the dizzying spectacle keeps them from approaching your horse’s dwelling.

You’d do anything to give your horse some relief from flies, but don’t waste your time with the unusual techniques that simply don’t work.

Theory: Long, cold winters will kill off over-wintering fly populations.

Conclusion: False. Entomologists report that over-wintering fly populations can survive deep in the soil; heavy snow cover can actually protect these flying insects from extreme cold. Additionally, a cold winter followed by a warm and sunny March could actually accelerate some fly cycles—what an unfair scenario!


Theory: Electric bug zappers stop flies in their tracks.

Conclusion: False. While the noise bug zappers make when they fry bugs can seem satisfying, they really do more harm than good by killing thousands of beneficial insects that don’t bother people or horses, leaving the majority of flies alive to pester us.


Theory: Ultrasonic devices will keep flies and other rodents away from your barn.

Conclusion: False. Ultrasonic pest repellers emit high-frequency sounds (above the range of human hearing) designed to repel or kill insects and rodents. Sadly, laboratory tests have shown that the majority of these devices do not work.


Theory: Vanilla-scented air fresheners repel flies and leave your barn smelling sweet.

Conclusion: False. Vanilla-scented car air fresheners may not very helpful as fly repellent in the barn, but pure vanilla has been reported to repel mosquitoes (but the sweet smell may attract bees!).


Theory: Bacon grease will help repel flies.

Conclusion: True. Because of its viscosity, bacon grease applied to the horse where flies tend to bite will result in rapid relief. Additionally, should the horse have open sores where flies have bitten him, the grease will not irritate the open wound. Petroleum jelly, also sticky, can work as well.


Theory: Dryer sheets can help repel flies when riding.

Conclusion: Possible. Though more likely to repel mosquitoes and gnats, dryer sheets contain two chemicals, linalool and beta-citronellol, that may repel flying insects. It couldn’t hurt to tuck one into your pocket or under your saddle to see for yourself!

Sarah E. Coleman

Based in Lexington, Ky., Sarah Coleman has a soft spot for chestnuts with chrome, including her off-the-track Thoroughbred, Chisholm. The pair competes in the hunters.

View Comments

  • Thanks for the truth. I won't waste my money on fly control gimmicks. I might try the dryer sheet thing, but probably not the bacon grease - that would repel me as much as the flies!

  • Say what you will about ultrasonic devices but I have them and they work wonders both in the house and barn. Wish I could carry one with me in the pastures all the time!

  • Adding Vitamin B1 to your waterers will result in an overload in your horse's system which will be exuded through the skin and repel MOST for the riders too! It's water soluable so you excrete any that you don't need, without damaging your organs.

  • When I was in Belize and Honduras they had several pennies in a bag with water and hung them all over to keep flies away. When I came home I did this out on my porch and have almost no flies now.

  • When I was in Belize and Honduras they had several pennies in a bag with water and hung them all over to keep flies away. When I came home I did this out on my porch and have almost no flies now.

  • I used to put apple cider vinegar in my horses food.
    They loved it and it did seem to keep a lot of bugs away.

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