Safe and Simple Fly Sprays

By using natural, botanical methods it is easy to repel irritating flies and other insects. There are various herbs that can be used to make your own fly spray and the benefits of herbs are numerous. Insects do not develop immunity to these natural means; the same herbs that have been used effectively for ages are just as effective today. Many repellent herbs are non-toxic and even edible and nutritious for horses and other animals. These versatile herbs come in different fragrances, naturally, which appeal to humans but are highly offensive to insects. The powerfully aromatic volatile oils in these herbs are overwhelmingly offensive to pests because of their highly acute sense of smell.

Why not use synthetic sprays? For one, insects can become increasingly immune or resistant to the chemicals, unlike with herbs. Secondly, as insects build up a resistance to the chemicals they produce (rapidly) hardier offspring on which the chemicals will have no effect. In addition, synthetics and chemical means can adversely affect the environment and our animals, weakening them more often than the tough little insects! This is especially so when we increase the usage of the synthetic spray in an attempt to keep up with its diminishing effects on insects.

Among the various insect-repelling herbs are citronella, basil, rosemary, thyme, sage, wormwood, garlic, lavender, bay, eucalyptus, pennyroyal, mugwort and rue. They are available fresh, dried, or as essential oils. While essential oils are the strongest form of repellents, they are potent, concentrated plant extracts, which actually are not oily at all. EOs are the substances used in aromatherapy, however their use requires caution. Used full strength, various sensitivities could develop. For instance, pennyroyal pure essential oil is strong enough to induce a heat cycle and miscarriage in some animals through skin penetration and licking. Guidance from someone experienced with the use of essential oils is necessary.

You can experiment with various fresh and dried herb sprays to see which works best on your horse. Use one herb at a time so you can assess its effectiveness; each animal is different and one herb may work extremely well for one animal where a different herb may work best for others. Start with a small area or patch rather than spraying the whole horse to see if the flies avoid the area. This is also a good idea if you have a sensitive animal or are sensitive yourself. Rue, for instance, is one herb that has been shown to be irritating to some people's skin. Also, certain herbs are more effective against certain types of insects, such as citronella for repelling mosquitoes and gnats and pennyroyal for ticks and chiggers.

Making a water-based fly spray is as easy as making tea. All you really need is water and herb. Even boiling water is not necessary. The herbs need to be crushed, ground or chopped to allow for the release of its substances into the water base (a blender or hand blender can be used) then the solution is strained for use in a sprayer. For each cup of water, add up to1/4 cup of fresh herb or a tablespoon of dried herb. As little as a few minutes may be all that is necessary to allow for the herb's substances to blend with the water. The water/herb solution will keep two to three days if stored out of the sun and in a cool place.

Note: To repel insects from wounds, use calendula or rosemary instead; each greatly assists healing and repels insects.

The best time, though not the only time, to apply the fly spray is when grooming. It is not necessary to drench the coat, but it is helpful to brush the spray in as you go to blend it with the natural oils on the coat.

For an after-bath rinse, add repelling herbs to the rinse water. For each gallon of water, use 1 cup fresh or 1/3 cup dried herb. Rosemary is a natural conditioner that will temporarily deepen the coat color. Be sure to soak the mane and tail well so your horse can re-apply the repellent with each shake and swish!

Resist the urge to buy the latest "long lasting" synthetic or chemical sprays. The friendlier botanical methods are easy, effective, and safe. Get in the habit of whipping up your own spray first thing in the morning (or the night before). For everyone's sake, safely control unwanted insects with versatile, multi-talented, pleasantly scented herbs.