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Whats the Buzz About Bots?
It reminds me of the waltz of bumblebees, but it’s not a waltz, and it’s not a bumblebee.
One of the signs of summer is the arrival of one of nature’s great tricksters. Their appearance marks the beginning of a new season, the time of Bot Fly. Flies that look like big brown bumble bees herald the start of summer torture for your horse.
These large flies hover and buzz around keepers preparing to lay eggs and start a new cycle for the fly. Horses in particular are a favorite, and the flies aggressively lay hundreds of eggs on the horse’s fur on the legs and chest. The buzzing sound indicates the approach of the fly and the subsequent contact of the fly with the horse’s skin, often driving the horses wild. Jumping, shaking and running to avoid the buzzing intruders is often fruitless as the flies persist until they lay their eggs.
In order for flies to reproduce, their eggs must be ingested by animals, and sometimes humans, where they grow and develop. Safely stored in the host’s stomach, the eggs adhere to the stomach wall and persist for up to 10 months. Here they are fed by the host and fed until they hatch into larvae that travel through the intestinal tract with feces.
The resulting infected manure provides the next stage of the Bot Fly life cycle, and the larvae now pupate. This stage takes about two months, and like a butterfly, the Bot Fly emerges to complete the next step in its long life cycle.
The adult fly, which resembles a hairy, brown bumble bee, flies out to find a suitable host for the next generation…after mating is complete and eggs are laid, the fly dies and the cycle ends.
It’s amazing how life evolves to perpetuate itself, but in doing so can harm the host. The damage is usually minimal and more studies are needed to effectively assess the long-term effects, but there is mild damage to the stomach wall. An autopsy shows a pitted area on the stomach wall where the Bot eggs were attached. The stomach usually heals on its own, but severe infections can cause colic, stomach ulcers, and even death if the stomach ruptures. Infested horses often look ill as the feeding insects suck nutrients and blood from the horse’s system. A horse’s immune system is weaker when infected and has more difficulty fighting disease and winter hardiness.
So how do you prevent the Bot fly from infesting your horse? This can only be done by interrupting the cycle.
In the past, horsemen and women used toxic anthelmintics to kill stomach eggs and scraped the eggs from the horse’s body with special combs or knives.
Now they use a greener and earth (and animal) friendly product. Diatomaceous earth is an easier, all-natural way to break the Bot Fly cycle. Diatomaceous earth, often called DE, is bad for sticks but good for horses. When fed to the horse on a daily basis, DE destroys the eggs, destroys the larvae and destroys the pupae in the resulting manure, and also improves the health of the horse.
Diatomaceous earth is the skeletal remains of a microscopic creature. These creatures, called diatoms, were tiny algae that lived millions of years ago and left huge skeletal deposits on the ancient sea floor. 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 larvae in the stomach by dehydration, then flushes them out of the system. Once passed, DE will kill the pupae hatching in the manure, as well as the eggs and larvae of any other flies. The use of DE reduces the Bot Fly population in addition to the traditional house fly and stag fly populations.
DE then delivers additional minerals to the horse’s system. DE itself is a mineral (silica for bone and hair growth), but it also contains 13 other trace elements, all of which are essential for overall good health. Trace elements include calcium, magnesium, titanium dioxide, gallium, vanadium, strontium, sodium, boron, iron, potassium, manganese, copper and zirconium. This mineral strengthens the horse’s immune system and supports good general health.
DE also cleans the system. DE flushes dead eggs and larvae from the horse’s digestive system and also removes sand or other debris that has not passed through. DE also kills and flushes out other internal parasites and worms. A horse with a clean gut is a healthy, happy horse.
Horses should be fed about ½ cup to 1 cup of DE per day. It depends on the size of the horse, but adjust accordingly. A good rule of thumb is to feed 2% DE based on the animal’s body weight. Always start small and work up to the full amount. This prevents the large-scale destruction of parasites that can cause distress to the animal. Start slowly and gradually increase the total amount over 7-10 days.
A WORD OF CAUTIONnot all DEs are created equal. Food Grade DE is the ONLY one safe to use on animals. Commercial grade or “swimming pool” DE is actually dangerous for use with people or animals. USE ONLY FOOD-GRADE DIOTA.
DE can be fed during the fly and parasite season or throughout the year. It is gentle on the horse’s system, and thanks to minerals, it makes it a basic stable. Once you start using DE, you’ll never miss that particular wasp’s cheat or waltz again… in fact, the silence created by Diatomaceous Earth may be the only music you want to hear.
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