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Stable Fly

During the warmer weather residents in the Shire may notice an increase in the population of stable fly (Stomoxys calcitrans L.).  This fly affects both humans and livestock.  The bite from this fly can be quite painful and therefore has the potential to cause considerable distress. Nuisance flies are commonly associated with manures and rotting vegetable matter.  It is the landowner’s responsibility to ensure adequate control measures are in place to prevent fly breeding.

The Shire works closely with the Department of Agriculture and Food WA (DAFWA) with a collective view to combating the problem.

Horse Owners

If you are a horse owner, odds are you have come across the stable fly or "biting fly".  This fly prefers to feed on horses and cattle more than any other animal including humans.  The biting fly feeds on horses several times a day, where their bite causes a sharp pain as it quickly draws blood – the fly pierces the skin several times before drawing blood where they can weigh up to 3 times more when fully fed.  Horse owners in and around Perth and in many surrounding shires have had to either (i) fully cover their horses with face fly guards and body rugs, or (ii) apply numerous repellents and creams and insecticides in an attempt to reduce the biting fly attacking them, or (ii) they have simply agisted the horses elsewhere.

The name "stable fly" is an historical name given to the fly when animals were housed over winter in the northern hemisphere.  Being kept indoors for several months their straw bedding was rarely changed and the animals’ manure and urine mixing with the straw allowed the "stable fly" to develop in this fermenting material.  The name "stable fly" suggests that this fly only comes from stables, which is simply not the case in and around Perth.  Horse stables and owners rarely produce high numbers of biting flies as their manure is removed at least once daily and horse manure by itself is simply too dry for this fly to develop in, even if spread on irrigated, green pastures and watered.

How do I know if I have biting flies?

The biting fly or "stable fly" is very similar in size and appearance to the common house fly and bush fly – the major difference between these flies is that the biting fly has, as their name suggests, a prominent biting mouthpart.  Stable flies are persistent biters, feeding on animals several times a day, preferring to bite cattle and horses, but will also attack humans, dogs, pigs, newborn lambs, pet kangaroos and emus.

Residents are encouraged to ensure that fly breeding does not occur on their properties and are urged to report any fly breeding or excessive fly numbers to DAFWA on 1800 084 881 or the Shire’s Environmental Health Officer on 9576 4600.

We would really appreciate assistance in sourcing information that will enable more vigilance in the management of stable flies in the Shire.

For more detailed information about Stable Flies, please visit the Stable Fly Action Group’s (SFAG) website (stableflyactiongroup.org.au).

If you have any questions with regard to this "pest" please contact Glenn Sargeson, Principal Environmental Health Officer at the Shire.