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Whats the Buzz About Bots?

It reminds you of the Bomber Waltz, but this is not a waltz and this is not a bomber.

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 Bot Fly era. Looking like big brown bumblebees, Bot flies herald the start of your horse’s summer torture.

These large flies hover and buzz around their animal hosts preparing to lay their eggs and start a new cycle for the fly. Horses in particular are a favorite and the flies aggressively lay several hundred eggs along the hairs on the horse’s legs and chest. The buzzing sound heralds the fly’s approach and the fly’s subsequent contact with the horse’s skin often unnerves horses. Jumping, shaking and running to avoid these buzzing invaders is often fruitless as the flies will persist until they can lay their eggs.

In order for flies to reproduce, their eggs must be consumed by the animal, and sometimes human, host where they grow and develop. Safely contained in the host’s stomach, the eggs adhere to the stomach wall and persist for 10 months. Here they are fed by the host and nursed until they hatch into larvae that pass through the intestinal tract through the dung.

The resulting contaminated manure provides the next stage in the Bot Fly life cycle and the larvae now become pupae. This stage takes about two months to complete, and like a butterfly, the Bot Fly emerges to complete the next step in its long life cycle.

The adult fly, which looks like a hairy brown bee, flies out to find a suitable host for the next generation… once mating is complete and the eggs are laid, the fly dies and the cycle is complete.

It’s amazing how life evolves to perpetuate itself, but in doing so it can harm the host. The damage is usually minimal and more studies are needed to effectively assess the long-term effects, but slight damage is caused to the stomach wall. Autopsies reveal a pitted area in the stomach wall where the Bot eggs were attached. Usually the stomach heals itself but in severe infestations it can cause colic, stomach ulcers and even death if the stomach ruptures. Infected horses often look ugly as the feeding insects drain nutrients and blood from the horse’s system. The horse’s immune system is weaker when challenged and has more difficulty with disease and winter hardiness.

So how do you stop the Bot fly from infesting your horse? It can only be done by breaking the cycle.

In the past, horsemen and women used toxic worming agents to kill the stomach eggs and special combs or knives to scrape the eggs from the horses’ bodies.

A greener and more earth (and animal) friendly product is now used. Diatomaceous Earth is an easier all natural way to break the Bot Fly cycle. Diatomaceous Earth, often called DE, is bad for Bots but good for horses. Feeding your horse DE on a daily basis will kill the eggs, kill the larvae and kill the nymphs in the resulting manure and also improve your horse’s health.

Diatomaceous Earth is the skeletal remains of a tiny creature. These creatures, called diatoms, were tiny algae from millions of years ago and left large skeletal deposits on the floors of ancient seas. Today it is mined and used in many ways for a greener world.

DE works on Bot Flies in several ways. It first kills the eggs and any larvae in the stomach by dehydration and then flushes them out of the system. Once passed the DE will kill any larvae hatching in the dung and the eggs and larvae of any other flies as well. Using DE will reduce the Bot Fly population in addition to the Common Housefly and Deer Fly populations as well.

DE then provides additional minerals to the horse’s system. DE is itself a mineral (silicon dioxide for bone and hair growth), but it also includes 13 other trace elements, all of which are essential for overall good health. Trace elements are calcium, magnesium, titanium dioxide, gallium, vanadium, strontium, sodium, boron, iron, potassium, manganese, copper and zirconium. This mineral stock boosts the horse’s immune system and supports good general health.

DE also cleans the system. Dead eggs and larvae are flushed out of the horse’s digestive system with DE and it additionally cleans out sand or other undigested debris as well. DE will also kill other internal parasites and worms and flush them out as well. A horse with a clean gut is a healthy, happy horse.

Horses should be fed about ½ cup to 1 cup of DE daily. This will depend on the size of the horse, but adjust accordingly. A good rule of thumb is to feed 2% DE per animal body weight. Always start small and work your way up. This prevents a large die-off from parasites that could cause distress to the animal. Start gently and in 7-10 days gradually increase to the full amount.

A WORD OF CAUTIONnot all DEs are equal. Food Grade DE is the ONLY animal safe. Commercial grade or “pool” DE is actually dangerous for use with humans or animals. USE ONLY FOOD GRADE POTTERY.

DE can be fed during fly and pest season or can be fed year round. It’s gentle on the horse’s system and the mineral benefits make it a barn staple. Once you start using DE, you’ll never miss that particular rogue or his waltz again… in fact, the silence Diatomaceous Earth creates might be the only music you want to hear.

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