Tuesday, March 18, 2008

formicaries and other things

I'm completely intrigued with today's word of the day. A formicary is apparently an ant hill! What an elegant term.

Interesting too because I was thinking this morning about all the insects we deal with here on the farm and starting to sort out my plan for the big insect season approaching.

Fire ants outside and regular old ants that come in through the kitchen window - we use DE, aka diatomaceous earth, which we order from Dirtworks. It is nontoxic and incredibly effective. The fire ant hills usually need 3 applications of DE to get the entire mound. The website has very specific instructions and recommendations for dealing with fire ants, but I developed my own method which works well.

We also used it for fleas until we discovered last summer that our female Corgi has a flea allergy. The DE can't kill the fleas fast enough to relieve her, so I pulled out the big gun: Advantage, which works best for fleas. We tend to use less than recommended on the package - usually half the dose and every 6 weeks instead of 4.

Ticks. Frontline does a decent job. DE dusted onto the animals is also good but does require daily dusting, religiously. Horses too! I've heard good things about Advantix, but it is incredibly toxic to cats, so we won't be using that here.

Stable and biting flies. Fly predators from Spalding Labs are incredible. I'm increasing our shipment this year to 10k predators every 3 weeks, from early April through October.

Horse flies. Those big ones that look like they flew right out of a horror movie. Apparently dragon flies are their natural predators. My plan this year is to get a special trap called a Horse Pal that comes highly recommended by two horse owners and our donkey breeder. It lures the horse flies and traps them, and they die naturally. No poisons involved.

Mosquitoes. We mostly use a natural fly spray to deal with those. I haven't decided on my plan yet for this season. I have a recipe for making my own, and I've heard great things about Flicks. Both use essential oils and smell wonderful.

Other ideas? Products you've used with great success? Share the wealth in the comment section!


Rising Rainbow said...

I love fly predators but you have to be careful even those natural type things for mosquitos can cause problems for them.

billie said...

I go back and forth between the agony of the bites and the side effects of spraying.

We switch to night-time turn-out once the evening temps get up to 50 or so, and this helps a lot. During the day, the horses stay in stalls with fans and access to paddocks if they want to move around and get some sunshine.

And I forgot.. fly masks with ears! We use the Cashel Crusader masks and love them.

Victoria Cummings said...

Funny, we were just getting ready to order our fly predators this morning. I looked at Horse Pal and I'm interested to know if you get one and like it. They're expensive, and I wonder if using fly spray on the horses will affect it? We had a terrible black fly probably last fall. If anyone has any advice about what to use to get rid of them, I'd appreciate it.

billie said...

MiKael, I just realized you meant the sprays can cause problems for the FLY PREDATORS, not the horses!

We're pretty sparing with the fly spray but that's a good point and definitely something to keep in mind if you use fly predators.

Victoria, from what I've been told about the Horse Pal, it targets the big biting flies that the fly predators don't (although some folks say that the longer you use fly predators, they will reduce the biting flies as well).

We get the big black ones as well as the deer flies. The big black ones tend to come out in late summer, right before dark, and when being bitten, the horses will quite literally run to any of us who happen to be outside and stand while we kill the fly. These flies are one reason I like having trees with low hanging branches in our pastures. The horses can get these monsters off by walking under the branches.

I've not heard that using fly spray on the horses does anything to reduce the effectiveness of the Horse Pal - it acts more like a decoy that attracts the flies and then traps them. I'll let you know how it works. I haven't bought it the past few years due to the expense and not really knowing how it would work, but seeing it in action (and seeing how many flies it caught) at the donkey farm convinced me.

We have seen one at our donkey breeder's farm and theirs works so well for them they are buying another one this year. They have many acres.

Matthew said...

Oh, that brings back memories from last summer of squashing all those horseflies on their backs!


billie said...

Maybe not this year, with the Horse Pal!

The Zoo Keeper said...

Citronella works well for mosquitos, but some people don't like the smell.

(If I already put this comment through, please just ignore the first one. The family is watching an American Idol recording and it blocks access to most of my brain cells. :-(

billie said...

I think citronella is one of the essential oils in the recipe as well as the Flicks brand of spray.

We used to have citronella plants that bordered our patio - they smelled lovely. :)

Grey Horse Matters said...

We also use the Crusader masks with the ears. We have used the fly predators too, they seemed to work well enough,but nothing is 100%.I would say we have tried every natural fly spray around and nothing seems to work as well as the stuff with chemicals in it, we don't use them anymore. I have used the Avon skin so soft and liked it because it works and I can also give myself a spray with it when the flying critters get too bad.So I really don't have much to add except I will keep trying things until I find the right combination for the horses.

billie said...

Arlene, you're right - nothing is 100%.

My goal is to reduce the pesky insects as much as possible, and to remember to thank the creatures who come in and help out: bats, dragonflies, toads, birds, etc.