Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Scabs and Blood

I don't know what type of fly I'm dealing with out there, but the removal of the standing water certainly helped get rid of them. Unfortunately, their damage was already done with Old Red.

In my post the other day I said that Red was bobbing his head, so I went out to look and there were little flies in his ears. I could tell that there was scabbing and crusting going on in there, but he wouldn't let me get my fingers in. I had to do the best I could to doctor it up and put some repellent around the area, and then I put a fly mask with ears on him.

The next day he'd itched off the fly mask, but the flies were gone. In their place, there was a lot of scabbing and irritation and the hair on the inner ear was largely removed.

Today he'd itched off his mask again. There was a large scab he'd itched off in one ear that showed exposed skin. The other ear looks like it's healing pretty well--scabby, but no blood. He will not let me apply ointments to them. I could barely get his mask back on. I decided to lock him in and feed him in the dark stall, which seemed to make him pretty happy.

The removal of the standing water seems to have ridded us of the pesty small flies that were biting on the horses. Were they black flies? Here is a description.

•Black flies (Simuliidae) are small in size (approximately 2mm-5mm) and breed in rapidly moving water. High-risk times are dawn and dusk during spring and early summer, when stabling may be helpful.

These flies commonly feed around the face – particularly inside the ears, where they trigger allergic skin reactions to their saliva, and distract the horse – but also on the horse's neck and underside. Bites form as painful lumps, often with pin-prick areas of bleeding and crusting.


Synthetic pyrethroid fly sprays can act as a deterrent, although physical barriers such as ear nets and oil-based products – oil of citronella, for example – will discourage these flies from landing on the horse. Petroleum jelly (Vaseline) applied inside the ears may prevent the insects biting.


Cowboy's itching has stopped, as far as I can tell. He had some flies in his ears the other day, too, but no scabbing. So, whatever these were, they were definitely attacking the ears.

Cowboy has also stopped his head bobbing and dragging. He's been in constant turn-out since I released him four or five days ago. Is it possible that the flies got into his nasal passage? Could that even happen? That would confirm what some of you said about having a "bug up his nose."

In any case, he's doing very well, but I'm going to keep a close watch on Red's ears. I'll try to get a picture of it when I go to check on him again.

This is all new for me. I've NEVER had this problem before. We've never had an issue with biting flies until now. Red is over 30...does that make him more susceptible?

8 comments:

  1. Poor Red. I can totally understand him not wanting his ears messed with when they're irritated.

    Wouldn't it be great if Cowboy doesn't have the head shaking syndrome and all you have to do is find a way to control the flies? That may be a big feat in itself, but it sounds like you have a good start on it. Maybe it won't be so bad in other years. Our weather has been so weird this year.

    I don't know if age is a factor, but I do think color, and maybe other individual factors, can cause them to be more susceptible. Bella, our dark sorrel, is tormented by bugs more than any of our other horses. She also seems more sensitive to them, getting welts and throwing fits and acting like she's being stung by bees (which makes me worry about trail riding). Soxy, who is mostly light colored and 25 years old with metabolic issues, gets them really bad on her underside every year. I think that's why she's the one who got pigeon fever several years ago.

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  2. We have black flies in the spring, and they seem to mostly attack the chests, bellies, sheaths and udders - the poor horses come in all bitten up with crusty bloody areas.

    Hope he feels better soon, and glad Cowboy seems to be doing better!

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  3. Linda, flies got into Cali's eyes and they were draining and making sores. The vet had to come out and scrape EGGS out of the sores! I now put a fly mask on her and then her halter over that because Scout kept ripping it off! I checked yesterday and the worst sore is now completely dried out, but I have to keep the fly mask on her until the end of fly season. They are AWFUL this year and they even bite us! The vet said that her immune system isn't as good as Scout's, so she can't fight off the flies as well as my other horses. I just keep checking her.

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  4. Face flies are the issue here; they swarm around the horses heads and rim their eyes. The mosquitoes are about done- at last. I guess the next onslaught will be bot flies- now those really drive the horses crazy.

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  5. I just read reports that meteorologists think there may be another La Nina forming in the Pacific (!!!)...which means we may be in for more wacky weather and subsequent growing season insect trouble).

    I hate the thought of spraying an entire field, but there are years here that mosquitoes are so bad that the local cropduster guy offers specials on sprays for pastures/open areas. If you can get a population crash at a critical time, the bugs will never rebound back to a similar level--which can be a godsend.

    There have been times when I've been tempted, although I hate the idea. It's also expensive, but considering the cost of flyspray and the fact that we're slathering repellants on their bare skin all summer, it might be worth trying a pasture spray next year if we have another one of these bizarre summers.

    That video you posted of Cowboy still chills my heart--he was so clearly freaked and unhappy. I'm so glad he's doing better.

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  6. Ugh, I HATE BUGS!

    You know, I wouldn't be surprised if Cowboy did get a bug up his nose. They are pretty small and horses' sinuses are pretty big. It could happen. If only you could know for sure that's what caused it. Horses need to learn how to talk, STAT.

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  7. Ghaaaa, the little flies are awful here too. I put Skin so Soft lotion on the mares bellies and udders this morning, they have been rubbing on the tree and I dont want to lose tails! I started putting the fly masks on them to, two with ears and one without because I had to cut them off after she shredded them! LOL The flies in my mares ears have been a yellowish color, dont know it they are black flies or not.
    I have even noticed some sores under the jaw of my light colored mare, put SSS there on her too.
    It hasnt been hot enough here yet for Bot flies, I hope their season is really short!!! I use Tri-Tec 14 fly spray, it smells good and works well!

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  8. I read this with great interest as an Entomologist's wife, but it looks like you have it all covered! I guess getting a photo of the offending insect is impossible (for an ID). I hope they stay away!

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Please feel welcome to join our discussion--tell us about your own thoughts and experiences.