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How To Monitor Flies on Poultry Farms

Rowan Burgess |

If you own a poultry farm, there’s no question that you will be familiar with being surrounded by flies. And not just you - your livestock will also know the feeling. So, what is the deal with the flies? Are they a normal and healthy part of owning a farm, or are they something you should be working on getting rid of?

An excellent place to start would be to monitor the number of flies on your farm. Once you have the data, you can begin the analysis and make plans for the next course of action. We’ve got all the tricks of the trade here.

What Are the Benefits of Fly Monitoring on Poultry Farms?

If you’ve established that you have a fly problem on your farm (or even if you want to be proactive and begin before the trial starts), getting started on monitoring the number of flies you have will come with many benefits. Not least of all is that age-old saying - with knowledge comes power. But let’s break that down:

  • Tests at both the suspected source(s) of the problem as well as at a control area can ascertain the ‘normal’ amount of flies as well as identify the problem areas.
  • Finding the breeding grounds of the flies via monitoring will allow the underlying causes of the problem to be found and tackled.
  • Consistent testing will mean the ‘normal’ amount of flies will be known, and any fluctuation of that will be noticed immediately (hopefully before it becomes a problem).

Monitoring Adult Flies

Performing Indoor Resting Counts

This particular method is explicitly designed for the common housefly. They tend to rest in large numbers in areas such as poultry houses and waste transfer stations. Doing a resting count in places like this is a good way of getting to know the general population size of the common housefly infestation.

To use this method, paint a 1mx1m square at around head height on a wall by the suspected area of infestation, and repeat this four to six times in each poultry house/waste station. Make sure the squares are away from people, vehicles, and waste, and then record the number of flies at regular intervals (e.g., twice a week).

Don’t forget to brush the squares down regularly to avoid cobwebs and dust build-up.

Using Indoor Adhesive Paper Traps

While this method is also for common houseflies, it’s better suited when there are lesser numbers. As the name would suggest, this method uses adhesive paper traps to monitor the number of flies in the area. To use, stick several 30cm rolls up in the area of concern at around head height.

At regular intervals, take the rolls down and count the number of flies that have become stuck, as well as the species found. Record this for analysis. These tests are best done from April to October, and a good rule of thumb is that if you find 20 or more of one species on any given count day, that might indicate a potential rise.

Open-Air Scudder Grid Counts

Moving into open-air methods of fly monitoring, first up is Scudder grid counts. These work best for tracking houseflies at waste sites as the manure and litter most commonly found at poultry farm waste sites attract the flies.

The grid itself is a 60cm wooden slatted grid and is placed on top of the waste for around 10 seconds. At this point, the number of flies, along with the species present, are counted and recorded.

This should be repeated around 10-15 times and between the hours of 10:00 and 16:00 when the flies are most active.

Open-Air Adhesive Paper Catches

As with indoor versions, adhesive paper catches can also be used outdoors. The best location for these are landfill sites and waste sites, and they work very similarly to indoor ones. Attach the adhesive paper to a pole near the site and check after around a week.

Unlike the other methods, there are some disadvantages to this one. Namely, the limitations of where the paper can be stuck, the fact that many other species (non-fly) will inevitably get stuck and need to be removed before counting, and that birds are likely to take the stuck flies before testing can occur.

Monitoring Fly Larvae 

Scrape-and-Count (Common Houseflies)

Whereas the above methods have been aimed at monitoring adult flies, an alternative approach is to track and record the number of fly larvae. The benefits of this mean that you can anticipate the number of adults there will be once they are matured and can be more proactive with your methods of tackling them.

One way of doing this is called the scrape and count method. This involves taking the top two to five cm of manure or waste where the flies are and counting how many you see. The best place to find larvae is undisturbed damp manure or waste.

Sample-and-count (Lesser Houseflies)

Most big problems with lesser houseflies happen in free-range poultry units. And counting larvae in this situation isn’t suitable because of the reduced access to manure in free-range houses, the ability to identify young larvae stages in manure, and the issue of splitting larvae from pupae.

Instead, the best option is to use a large trowel and scrape the top five to seven cm of the surface of the manure found until you have around 300g. Once collected, the waste must be put into a tray, and the individual larvae and pupae can be counted this way.

Best practices would encourage operators to obtain and check about four manure samples per week per house. Take samples from the manure pit when there’s access, and when possible, collect from both drier (edge) and wetter (drinkers) samples. 

Interpreting Fly Monitoring Data

How Many Flies Are Considered a Problem on a Poultry Farm?

There is no simple answer to this question due to the sheer number of variables at play. For example, how big is the farm? How far from the neighbours is it? How far from a residence is it? The best practice is to monitor the fly numbers at all times to get a good idea of what a ‘normal’ number is. This will also correspond with the times when you have few to no complaints from neighbours.

Once you know this number, you’ll better understand what is too many and when you have a problem.

Adjusting Your Fly Management Strategies

When you first start out monitoring your fly numbers, it is a good idea to try a variety of different methods and techniques. That’s because each farm will have different layouts, and the behaviour of the flies may differ because of this. Trying all the methods will mean you will find the best monitoring way for you much quicker.

That being said, don’t be afraid to shake things up and adjust your monitoring practices if need be. You might find that your usual methods are not explaining influxes in fly numbers. In this case, try a new approach and see what comes out that way.

Final Thoughts

As demonstrated, monitoring the fly numbers on your poultry farm can prove to be invaluable. Not just in sorting out when they become a nuisance but for general analysis purposes for understanding what is and isn't typical for your farm.

There are a variety of ways you can monitor flies at your farm, from indoor methods to outdoor methods. Each has advantages that can assist you in running a safe and happy farm.

If you are looking for fly control products, look no further than Dalton. We stock a large variety of products that will eliminate or keep your fly problems at bay. Get in touch now so we can work together to get your poultry farm fly problems sorted once and for all!