A Plague of Horse Flies

We didn’t notice them as much last year. Maybe it’s because we were here mainly on weekends, or because of global warming, or maybe, as we do all other problems we don’t know how to solve, we can blame it on Nancy Pelosi. But for whatever reason, we are tormented by horse flies.


The horse flies wait until you’re relatively still, and then you hear them buzzing. We’ve long since learned to ignore gnats, bumblebees, and house flies; we honestly seldom notice them. But horse flies, we’ve learned to take seriously. If we don’t, a few moments later we’ll feel that painful sting as the horse fly rips at our flesh with its serrated mandibles and enjoys a sumptuous meal of human blood at our expense.

Perhaps it’s all that human flesh exposed, but the horse flies seem to find us especially appealing when we are using the outdoor shower. First the buzzing, accompanied by a desperate and usually futile attempt to wave them away. Then the bite. The horse fly is most vulnerable when it’s ripping my flesh, and that’s when I’m often successful at swatting it and killing it. There now, don’t you feel better? Actually, no. What I’d like to do is to hear the horse fly’s agonizing death scream before it feasts on me.

Pesticides don’t work well on horse flies. That’s actually good news to us, because we would be unlikely to use pesticide anyway. and this means we’re in good company. Horse flies usually prefer livestock to people, so perhaps we should get a horse, a donkey, or a goat. Not sure we can justify that kind of commitment, and then there’s the obvious cruelty inherent in acquiring an animal solely for the purpose of shifting torment to it.

So we’re about to settle on some version of what’s called a “Manitoba trap.” It’s designed to exploit the way horse flies hunt to capture them. Horse flies don’t respond to scent; they’re all about visual cues. So the Manitoba trap uses contrasting light and dark colors and some kind of movement to attract the horse fly to a pyramid structure. When the fly discovers that the trap isn’t a blood meal, it tends to fly upward. The pyramid directs the fly into a clear jar from which the fly can’t escape and therefore dies from exposure to the sun. There’s no pesticide, no dangerous chemicals of any kind. Just a maintenance requirement that you empty the jay of dead flies every few days.

We know the Manitoba trap works to trap flies. What we really don’t know is whether it traps enough to lessen the population and lessen the suffering that Amanda and I have endured. We don’t have much of a choice, though. We’re going to have to try something, so we might as well do this.

There’s a commercially available Manitoba trap called the Horse Pal. The makers of the Horse Pal thoughtfully provide one testimonial after another from satisfied owners saying the Horse Pal solved their horse fly problems. There’s a problem with the Horse Pal, however, in the form of its $300 price tag. We’re willing to roll the dice with and see what happens with a $2.00 pack of okra seeds, but $300 is a little steep for a vague hope of relief.

We’re studying now these plans for the Manitoba trap as well as these plans. And this page has a picture on it (but no plans) of what looks to be a simple, economical version.

May 25 Update

Our sister Lynda (Dave Gray’s wife) has taken pity on us and loaned us their Horse Pal. I set it up yesterday afternoon about 5:30, and by 7:00 the trap jar was teeming with angry, imprisoned horse flies. Now the question is whether we can tell a difference in our outdoor showers. We shall keep you posted!

4 thoughts on “A Plague of Horse Flies”

  1. Hello we, KYLIX, have a horsefly-trap. Look at our website.http://www.kylix.nl/en/Downloads.html
    You see information about this horsefly-trap. The trap cost €250,-
    If you are intersted I can sell you one for € 250,- and I will take care for the transportationcost.
    Because we will try to sell a lot in your countrie.
    Maybee you know anybody who is interested in this horsefly-trap.
    I hope soon hearing from you.
    Martin Kuipers
    company: KYLIX
    The Netherlands
    phone: +31 546 577305

  2. Were the numbers reduced? I’m in SW Ohio, and the horse flies are the worst I’ve ever seen them.
    I’ll try anything as long as it works, even if it costs $300!! I can’t do anything outside without being tormented. I’ve killed at least 1,000 since mid July – about the time they showed up by the hoards.

  3. Has anyone else found that horse flies are attracted to a swimming pool. We empty the skimmers (with great pleasure)holding many many dead horse flies every day. I would love to know if the attraction is the clarifier or the anti algae.

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