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Photo courtesy of MAUREEN GILMER via Scripps Howard News Service The fly predator is tiny compared with the average fly.
Sunday, April 29, 2012

Control backyard flies naturally

Predator insects are a valuable means of controlling problem pests such as the aphid, which is the prey of the ladybug and praying mantis.

Gardeners release ladybugs into the landscape to keep aphid populations at bay.

The same power of nature is available to control flies. They pester us, torture pets and invade our homes. Mine originate in my horse corrals, but may congregate where there are dogs, caged pets, backyard chickens and composting operations.

House and stable flies are tough to control with chemicals. They are even harder to knock down with botanical pesticides, which are plant-based but still quite toxic.

Last year, I tested an innovative method of fly control because my horse gets hives from the fly spray and he rubs the hair off wherever they bite him. So, I tried a green solution – Fly Predators – to my stable-fly population. Fly Predators are small wasps that disrupt the reproductive process of flies to reduce the number of offspring.

Spalding Labs produces Fly Predators, and the process is described on its website, www.spalding-labs.com.

When boarding my horse, I couldn’t use Predators because there were too many other boarders who didn’t want to participate. When I moved to the country and now have my horse at home, I tested the Fly Predators to reduce fly populations without using chemicals. The Predators didn’t eliminate all the flies, but reduced their numbers significantly with this alternative to toxic sprays.

This winter, I discovered something new. The Predators had spread out over my property and were hanging around dog excrement, too. That helped me realize this could be an ideal way of controlling flies in the family backyard where chemical solutions would be toxic to kids and pets.

Predators are doubly useful for backyard farms with chickens, rabbits, goats or a dog run where feces can become highly concentrated.

Once you establish Predators, it’s important to avoid the use of any garden chemicals that affect insect populations. These small wasps are vulnerable to pesticides, even such innocuous green sprays as insecticidal soap.

To learn more about Fly Predators, visit the Spalding Labs website to learn how to manage your yard, farm or ranch with this innovative form of bio-control.

Maureen Gilmer is an author, horticulturist and landscape designer. Learn more at www.MoPlants.com. Contact her at mogilmer@yahoo.com or P.O. Box 891, Morongo Valley, CA 92256.