The dreaded greenhead fly – help your horse deal!
- The annoying butt heads have an actual green head. A totally creative and appropriate name for these buggers. And super tricky to manage – if you can at all. Here’s the thing about greenhead flies – they are not like normal flies at the barn that you can easily swat away. For several reasons:
- Greenhead flies are larger than the typical barn fly. They are a member of the horse fly family, but not as large as some other horse flies. The greenheads I have seen are just shy of an inch.
- Their bite HURTS. Unlike some bugs that prick you and drink without you noticing, the green head fly slices the skin, waits for the blood to pool, then drinks from the puddle. Super gross.
- Only the females bite, they need the protein in blood to carry on egg-laying duties.
- They are attracted to movement and hunt via sight. Not smell. The usual bug sprays and fly sprays don’t even make a dent.
- They mainly feed on large dark creatures, like cattle and deer. Horses and humans will do as a food source when necessary.
- Most of the US is safe from the green head. They live in coastal marshy areas, typically on the northeast coast.
- They can (and will) bite through your clothing. Oh, joy.
They will leave a bloody mark.
- Wind and fans are the greenhead’s arch-nemesis. Savor a windy day and buy a boatload of fans when the wind isn’t cooperating.
Help fend off greenhead flies
- Fly sheets with neckpieces are a good idea. The same goes for fly masks. Which, most of us use anyway. I prefer light or white-colored fly sheets anyway, which works well as the greenhead flies prefer dark colors.
- Let your horse have his tail. I know we love our tail bags, but sometimes you just gotta let that tail fly free!
- Use fans, even on the cooler days. Many horses are on night turn out plan during summer anyway, when the flies are not so active. During the day, the fans and wind keep them at bay.
I ride with this fly sheet that covers neck, shoulders, and butt. It helps tremendously against all flies.
- You may be able to buy or make a green head fly trap. Rutgers University has an awesome article and detailed plans to make super awesome traps that don’t need bait.
- Talk to your local agriculture extension service about the green heads in your area. You may be able to get some solutions there!
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Shoofly fly boots
Cashel Quiet Ride Bug Armor – 2 Piece Set – I use this when I ride to cover my horse’s neck, shoulders, and butt.
Shires, Performance Fly Sheet – this goes up and over the neck and poll for max coverage for the horse with sweet itch.
Amigo Mio Fly sheet – I love this one, the extra long tail prevents bugs up the butt, and the neck piece is great. It’s also super light, which means it tears easily.