It reminds you of the waltz of the bumblebees, but this isn’t a waltz and this isn’t a bumblebee.
One of the signs of summer is the arrival of one of nature’s great imposters. Their appearance signals the beginning of a new season, the time of the Bot Fly. Resembling large brown bumblebees, Bot flies herald the beginning of your horse’s summer torture.
These large flies hover and buzz around livestock hosts preparing to lay their eggs and begin a new cycle for the fly. Horses in particular are a favorite and the flies aggressively lay several hundred eggs along leg and chest hairs of the horse’s coat. The buzzing sound announces the approach of the fly and the fly’s subsequent touching of the horse’s skin, often drives horses wild. Jumping, shaking and running to evade these buzzing invaders is often fruitless as the flies will persist until they are able to lay their eggs.
To propagate the flies need to have their eggs ingested by the animal, and sometimes human, host where they grow and develop. Safely contained in the hosts stomach the eggs attach to the stomach wall and remain for 10 months. Here they are fed by the host and nurtured until hatching into larvae which pass through the intestinal track via manure.
The resulting infested manure provides the next stage in the life cycle of the Bot Fly and the larvae now become pupae. This stage takes about two months to complete and like a butterfly, the Bot Fly emerges to complete the next step in the long life cycle.
The adult fly, which resembles a hairy brown bumblebee, flies out to seek a suitable host for the next generation… once mating is complete and the eggs laid, the fly then dies and the cycle is complete.
It is amazing how life evolves to perpetuate itself but in so doing it can damage the host. The damage is usually minimal and more studies are needed to effectively evaluate the long-term effects but slight damage is done to the stomach wall. Necropsies reveal a pitted area on the stomach wall where the Bot eggs were attached. Usually the stomach heals itself but in severe infestations it can cause colic, stomach ulcers and even death should the stomach rupture. Infested horses often look poorly as the feeding insects drain nutrients and blood from the horses system. The horse’s immune system is weaker when infested and has greater difficulty with illness and with winter hardiness.
So how do you stop the Bot fly from infesting your horse? It can only be done by breaking the cycle.
In the past horsemen and women used toxic worming agents to kill the stomach eggs and special combs or knives to scrape the eggs from the horses body.
Now a greener and more earth (and animal) friendly product is used. Diatomaceous Earth is an easier all-natural way to break the Bot Fly cycle. Diatomaceous Earth, often called DE, is bad for Bots but good for horses. Feeding your horse DE on a daily basis will kill the eggs, kill the larvae and kill the pupae in the resulting manure and improve your horse’s health as well.
Diatomaceous Earth is the skeletal remains of a microscopic creature. These creatures, called Diatoms, were tiny algae from millions of years ago and left great skeletal deposits on ancient sea floors. Today it is mined and used in many ways for a greener world.
DE works on Bot Flies in several ways. First it kills the eggs and any larvae in the stomach by dehydration and then flushes them from the system. Once passed DE will kill any pupae that do hatch in the manure and the eggs and larvae of any other fly as well. Using DE will reduce the Bot Fly population in addition to the common house fly and deer fly populations as well.
Next the DE supplies additional minerals to the horses system. DE is itself a mineral (Silicon Dioxide for bone and hair growth) but includes 13 other trace minerals as well, all of which are essential to overall good health. The trace minerals are calcium, magnesium, titanium dioxide, gallium, vanadium, strontium, sodium, boron, iron, potassium, manganese, copper and zirconium. This mineral supply boosts the horse’s immune system and supports good overall health.
DE also cleans the system. Dead eggs and larvae are flushed out of the horse’s digestive system with DE and in addition it purges sand or other non passed debris also. DE will also kill other internal parasites and worms and flush them as well. A horse with clean intestines is a healthy, happy horse.
Horses should be fed about ½ cup to 1 cup of DE daily. This will depend upon the size of the horse but adjust it accordingly. A good rule is to feed 2% DE per body weight of the animal. Always start with a little and work to the full amount. This prevents a large die off of parasites which could cause distress to the animal. Start gently and in 7-10 days increase gradually to the full amount.
A WORD OF CAUTION, not all DE is equal. Food Grade DE is the ONLY one safe to use with animals. Commercial grade or “swimming pool” DE is in fact dangerous for use with people or livestock. ONLY USE FOOD GRADE DIATOMACEOUS EARTH.
DE can be fed during the fly and parasite season or it can be fed year round. It is gentle on the horse’s system and the mineral benefits make it a barn basic. Once you start using DE you will never miss this particular bumblebee imposter or his waltz again… in fact, the silence Diatomaceous Earth creates may be the only music you wish to hear.