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Whats the Buzz About Bots?
It is reminiscent of the drone waltz, but it is not a waltz and it is not a drone.
One of the signs of summer is the arrival of one of nature’s great imposters. Their appearance signals the start of a new season, the time of the Bot Fly. Resembling large brown bumblebees, Bot flies herald the start of your horse’s summer torture.
These large flies hover and buzz around livestock hosts as they prepare 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 the leg and chest hairs of the horse’s coat. The buzz announces the fly’s approach, and the fly’s subsequent contact with the horse’s skin often drives horses wild. Jumping, shaking and running to escape these buzzing invaders is often unsuccessful as the flies will persist until they are able to lay their eggs.
To propagate, flies need their eggs to be ingested by the animal, and sometimes human, host where they grow and develop. Safely contained in the host’s stomach, the eggs attach to the stomach wall and remain there for 10 months. Here they are fed by the host and fed until they hatch into larvae which pass through the intestinal tract via manure.
The resulting infested manure is the next stage in the Bot Fly’s life cycle and the larvae now grow into pupae. This stage takes about two months to complete and like a butterfly, the Bot Fly emerges to complete the next stage of the long life cycle.
The adult fly, which looks like a hairy brown bumblebee, flies off in search of a suitable host for the next generation…once mating is complete and the eggs are laid, the fly then dies and the cycle is complete .
It is amazing how life evolves to perpetuate itself, but in doing so it can damage the host. Damage is usually minimal and more studies are needed to effectively assess long-term effects, but slight damage is done to the stomach lining. Necropsies reveal a pitted area on the stomach wall where the Bot eggs were attached. Usually the stomach heals on its own, but in severe infestation it can cause colic, stomach ulcers and even death if the stomach ruptures. Infested horses often look bad as the feeding insects drain nutrients and blood from the horse’s system. The horse’s immune system is weaker when infested and has more difficulty with disease and winter hardiness.
So how do you prevent the Bot fly from infesting your horse? This can only be done by breaking the cycle.
In the past, horsemen and women used poisonous deworming agents to kill eggs from the stomach and special combs or knives to scrape the eggs from the bodies of horses.
Now a more eco-friendly, earth-friendly (and animal-friendly) product is being used. Diatomaceous earth is an easier, all-natural way to break the Bot Fly cycle. Diatomaceous earth, often called DE, is bad for robots but good for horses. Feeding your horse DE daily will kill eggs, kill larvae and kill pupae in the resulting manure and will also improve your horse’s health.
Diatomaceous earth is the skeleton of a microscopic creature. These creatures, called diatoms, were tiny algae dating back millions of years and left large skeletal deposits on the ancient seabed. 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 through dehydration, then flushes them out of the system. Once passed, the DE will kill any pupae that hatch in the manure as well as the eggs and larvae of any other flies. Using DE will reduce Bot Fly population in addition to common house fly and deer fly populations.
Then the DE provides additional minerals to the horse’s system. DE is itself a mineral (silicon dioxide for bone and hair growth), but also includes 13 other trace minerals, all of which are essential for overall good health. The trace elements are calcium, magnesium, titanium dioxide, gallium, vanadium, strontium, sodium, boron, iron, potassium, manganese, copper and zirconium. This mineral contribution strengthens the horse’s immune system and promotes good general health.
DE also cleans the system. Dead eggs and larvae are eliminated from the horse’s digestive system with DE and in addition it also purges sand or other unspent debris. DE will also kill other internal parasites and worms and eliminate them as well. A horse with clean intestines is a healthy and happy horse.
Horses should be fed approximately ½ cup to 1 cup of DE per day. This will depend on the size of the horse, but adjust accordingly. A good rule of thumb is to give 2% DE per body weight of the animal. Always start with a little and work to the maximum. This prevents a large death from parasites which could cause distress to the animal. Start small and in 7-10 days gradually build up to the full amount.
A WORD OF WARNINGnot all DEs are equal. Food Grade DE is the ONLY safe to use with animals. Commercial or “pool” grade DE is actually unsafe for use with people or livestock. USE ONLY FOOD GRADE DIATOMA EARTH.
The DE can be fed during fly and pest season or it can be fed all year round. It is gentle on the horse’s system and the mineral benefits make it a stable basic. Once you start using DE, you’ll never miss that particular bumblebee impostor or waltz again…in fact, the silence created by diatomaceous earth may be the only music you want to hear.
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