Creepy crawlies, bugs, things with wings, vermin, pests, whatever you call them — they’re annoying to both horses and people alike. What starts of as a mild nuisance can turn into a large-scale infestation if not treated right. Most people treat pests with some form of pesticide, but these industrial scale chemicals may not be safe for the animals living at your barn, people included.
Dealing with pests naturally isn’t the easiest feat but there are still some effective methods out there. If your barn happens to be infested with pests, why don’t you try out some of these natural methods:
The Great Wall of China was constructed to protect China from its enemies and invaders from the North, especially the Mongols. The Mongols were a tribal group that would regularly conduct raids into China. Bottomline is they kept their enemies out by creating a natural barrier. You can adopt this same method to keep pests out of your barn.
The most effective way of dealing with pests is to keep them out of the barn altogether. Creating barriers using natural ingredients, keeps parasites where they belong and keeps your home and garden pristine.
Garlic works as an effective insecticide for a variety of insects, including everything from mosquitoes to the dreaded Colorado potato beetles. Grind it up, mix it with water, and apply it anywhere that insects might enter your barn. One downside is that your barn will consistently smell like crushed garlic.
Powders and spices
Cayenne pepper, cinnamon, bone meal, talcum powder, and chalk. These substances work as barriers against insects. But you'll need to do a little bit of experimenting to determine which substance works best to repel which insects invade your barn.
Herbs are another way to create barriers around your barn. Spearmint, peppermint, and pennyroyal are highly effective at repelling ants and aphids. Mint and basil situated around doorways and under windows will keep flies away and make your house smell minty fresh and clean.
Sand, copper, lime, or ash
For snail problems, use sand, copper, lime, or even ash to keep the sluggers away. And if you have ants crawling into your house through cracks and crevices, squeeze some lemon on them, and it will send the ants running.
All of the ingredients we've listed above do repel insects. However, they only last a few days at best, requiring you to reapply them regularly. There is no residual with these products that keeps the bugs at bay for an extended period. Also, repelling insects won't get rid of them. It's similar to treating the symptoms of a disease but not actually curing it. You must find the source of your pest problem and kill it at the source for dependable, long term insect elimination.
Much like young horses, most insects, such as mites, aphids, white flies, and beetles, don’t do well with soap. When covered in soapy water, they suffocate and die a slow, but clean death.
To create a compelling soap spray, mix one and a half tsp. of liquid soap with one quart of water. Spray the solution directly on the pests affecting your barn, and places insects tend to collect. The spray can be applied as necessary, though it’s recommended for use in the evenings or early morning and not during the heat of the day.
Soapy water has the ability to get rid of many insects such as fleas, aphids, etc. Unfortunately, heat will evaporate the solution in a matter of hours, making it ineffective in the long run against most pests.
Like the ingredients used to create natural barriers, there is no residual to allow it to continue working. And though soapy water is an efficient product to use against aphids, it’s not effective for clearing up fleas. Soap can suffocate and kill fleas, but will not effectively exterminate infestations invading a structure.
Oil applied to human skin makes it greasy. However, to insects, oil is a death blow. A bit of oil can immediately kill aphids, mites, thrips, and other insects that pester your barn.
To make an uncomplicated oil insecticide, mix one cup of vegetable oil and one tablespoon of soap and shake until fully combined. Then add two teaspoons of the oil mix to 1 quart of water and spray directly on insects or on affected areas. The soap acts as an emulsifier allowing the oil and water molecules to bind. Like the soapy water insecticide, the oil coats their bodies in a suffocating sheen, causing them to die relatively quickly.
The oil and soap method work the same and they have the same downsides. It's an effective method if you're treating a minor issue, you'll have to find the nest to truly eradicate your pests.
Not a fan of citrus fruits? Neither are spiders. They absolutely loathe citrus of any kind. The mere sight of oranges or grapefruit sends them scampering back to where they came from. To make a simple citrus spider repellent, mix water and fresh, unsweetened citrus juice. Wipe down your countertops, walls, or any other place where spiders tend to lurk.
While the citrus mixture will help repel the spiders from the areas you applied it to, it will only send them to other areas of your barn. Also, the constant wiping down of countertops and walls involves quite a lot of time and effort. It would leave no residual but makes everything sticky. There's also the issue of attracting pests that enjoy citrus. Not to mention that you might corrode your surfaces with constant exposure to the acidic mixture.
Name something worse than accidentally stomping on the lair of fire ants. You'll find yourself getting swarmed by angry creatures ready to gnaw your skin raw. To be fair, you did destroy their home. But there is a relatively easy solution to getting rid of said fire ants: assassinate their queen.
Alright, maybe we overdramatized it, but it is quite simple.
Spread some corn grits on the fire ant hill. The loyal worker ants will bring the grits to their queen so she can eat them. When it rains, the queen will come out to drink water, and the grits inside her stomach will expand exponentially, eventually killing her. She leaves the colony without a queen, and once she's a distant memory, the remaining worker ants will quickly die off, leaving that area fire-ant-free.
This being said, the corn grits are only effective if they stay dry. If the grits get wet before the queen ingests them, they will expand prematurely. Aside from that, the grits could potentially have an unintended side-effect. You could attract vermin and insects into your barn causing an entirely new issue. In this case, the most effective way to eliminate ants is water-resistant granular fire ant bait.
There's this popular meme that goes: what's worse than a cockroach? a FLYING cockroach! Would anyone care to disagree? Nope. We thought so. Roaches are the very definition of creepy, crawly, generally disgusting insects. But roaches have an unexpected weakness. They have a sweet tooth.
Mix equal parts of powdered sugar and baking soda and BOOM you have a roach killing concoction. Spread the mixture wherever you see roaches and watch them eat to their death. If you can't find any powdered sugar in your pantry, pop by your local hardware and grab some Boric acid. It's another effective and natural way to exterminate roaches.
Mind you that roaches can develop “cross-resistance” which will eventually immunize them from homemade bait and actually make the problem worse. No wonder they managed to make it past the meteor that killed the dinosaurs. Most pest professional pest exterminators will utilize more than one type of roach bait each with different active ingredients and different forms of inert ingredients. Apart from that, homemade baits can be messy to make and ineffective if they're not mixed properly.
Mothballs may be effective at keeping moths away, but they stink — literally. A more effective way to repel them is cloves, which drive the moths away and produce a delightful aroma in your barn.
Another way to deal with moths is to fill a small basin with water and then hang a light bulb over it. It's common knowledge that moths are attracted to light. The moths will bump into the light bulb, fall into the basin, and drown in the water. Pour some soap in the water to break the surface tension to ensure the moths drown in the water instead of just sitting on the surface.
Fleas are the enemy of all mammals. They bring diseases, cause your livestock to grow weak, and spread like wildfire in a matter of hours. Luckily, a simple herb can save the day. Rosemary! All you need to do is grind up a few sprigs of Rosemary and sprinkle it on your horse and the stables, and you'll send the fleas running in no time.
However, Rosemary is just a temporary fix. You'll have to get to the root of the problem; otherwise they'll find a meal elsewhere.
Natural methods of pest control are great and all but we all know they’re a temporary solution. They’re not a sustainable upkeep for something as large as a barn with horses. And they take way too much time and effort if you have to do all these every day. Leave the large scale problems to the professionals, they’ll know how to handle it better.
Also, the best way to avoid pests and cleaning up after pests is to keep the area clean. Pests are attracted to dirt, ungroomed horses, and food lying around. Prevention is better than cure, so if there’s something you should invest in, it’s someone to clean up around the area. It will save you so much more money than trying to exterminate the pests that bother your horses in the barn.