Southern Plains Bison Pointers July 2019

Fly Control for Bison

Buffalo Wallows

(DE) Diatomaceous Earth and Bison


– Natural-world solutions to natural-world problems – Prepared by: Frasier Bison LLC

There are many ways to approach fly control to the benefit of your herd. Most approaches are direct and broad spectrum, such as pyrethroid application. These products kill most, or all flying insects as well as others. It works very well if you are not concerned about a broad spectrum insect eradication.


Common Sense Caution: Bison are not cattle and have a double hair coat resulting in more hair follicle per square inch. Therefore; we cannot be sure that the chemicals designed and studied for fly control on cattle will be effective [or] non-toxic to bison. I recommend consulting a veterinarian before using any insecticides made for cattle on bison.


Pyrethroid – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

  A pyrethroid is an organic compound similar to the natural pyrethrins produced by the flowers

of pyrethrums (Chrysanthemum cinerariaefolium and C. coccineum). Pyrethroids now constitute the majority of commercial household insecticides. In the concentrations used in such products, they may also have insect repellent properties and are generally harmless to human beings in low doses but can harm sensitive individuals. They are usually broken apart by sunlight and the atmosphere in one or two days, and do not significantly affect groundwater quality.


Environmental effects

Aside from the fact that they are also toxic to beneficial insects such as bees and dragonflies, pyrethroids are toxic to fish and other aquatic organisms. At extremely small levels, such as 4 parts per trillion, pyrethroids are lethal to mayflies, gadflies, and invertebrates that constitute the base of many aquatic and terrestrial food webs

Pyrethroids have been found to be unaffected by secondary treatment systems at municipal wastewater treatment facilities in California. They appear in the effluent, usually at levels lethal to invertebrates.


My perspective on bison & flies:

Bison have had to deal with flies since there was rotting organic matter in the environment. At one point in history it was observed that the cow birds actually followed the great herds for the food source of flies that the bison carried with them as they roamed over great distances in great numbers. Some ornithologists deconstruct the brood parasitism of the brown headed cow bird as an evolutionary response caused by having to follow the bison herds during their breeding and nesting season. During the mid and early 1800’s, Charles Goodnight documented many things about the bison including the response to catastrophic fly populations causing the cattle to stampede, while the bison just laid down and grazed. Flies are part of nature and have been around as a part of natural systems since the environment we now know was established, and long before that.

Flies may be part of the natural system and have their ecological role, but they still suck (!) literally – and they also bite. They also represent increased stress levels to livestock be they native grazers like bison, or exotics like beef and dairy cattle. Like the many management chores cinematically perceived as all in a cattle ranchers’ honest day’s work, it is required that we supply science and elbow grease to the benefit of the domestic cattle in order to be productive and sustain. So, we go out and kill flies on the cattle, or through their digestive system with a stealthy toxic trap built by good science and set to kill in the dung. This methodology is quite affective in 2 dimensions that include the cattle and the flies.

Beyond that lies the natural system that includes naturally occurring predator flies [wasps] – dung beetles – dragon flies – native bees – birds and I am sure many other living things in a living natural system that can actually do your work [for you] by working against things like flies that cause problems.


Bison Approach and Advantage:

What if we team up with nature to manage flies?

  • Bison have an instinct for fly response called wallowing or dusting
    • This instinct is shared by quail and other prairie birds [interesting cool fact]
    • Cattle do not have this instinct
    • Bison tend to dust the areas of their body where flies persist
  • Natural systems produce a fungus fatal to fly species
    • balEnce™ / (Beauveria bassiana)
    • This fungus reproduces and remains in the habitat
    • This fungus has no effect on mammalian or bird species
  • Nature produces dust that is fatal to flies and repels other insects
    • DE [Diatomaceous Earth]
  • Flies are gregarious and the fungus works by touch or contact
    • We turn our enemies into allies
    • Flies roost together and mate causing fungus contact
Method: This is what works for me.

 Step 1] Find an existing wallow or grouping of wallows that the bison are familiar to

  • If there is a big number, pick the biggest ones and you will create favor with the
    • [OR] treat


Step 2] Mix the balEnce heavy [2X] and spray the wallow until it is


Step 3] Add DE [Diatomaceous Earth] to the wallow on top of the wet soil Step 4] Look behind you if you are doing this on a regular schedule in case your bison are anxious to wallow…

  • In many cases I have seen rigorous competition for the freshly treated


Step 5] Let nature work. You will see the bison first paw and mix the new wallow ingredients, then cover themselves. They will stand up and shake, leaving their body covered with balEnce treated dirt and DE Step 6]

  • Repeat in 36 to 48 hours if your fly populations are heavy or out of control
  • Repeat as necessary once you have control The fungus will reproduce and remain in the habitat and be very enhanced at the wallow location


Step 7] Spray other areas of the habitat that have accumulated rotting organic matter Spray dung piles. Spray locations that seem to harbor big roosting populations or activity – called hot spots


Below: the most dominant animals get the first wallow – while the others wait their turn.

Bison Wallowing

Below: the ‘wallowing’ behavior starts very young and is considered instinctual

Calf Wallowing

What you will see is a reduction in the population in the first 36 hours, followed by a cycle of reduction [ongoing] and each year will be less management intensive because of lower and lower populations. You will actually be turning your bison into fly traps, and causing the flies to kill other flies by contact. This has been my experience. I have also sprayed the bison occasionally if I get a ‘bank-up’ of fly populations, but have not seen a bigger result compared to letting the bison self-treat in the treated wallows.


Important Notes: 

  • Liquid balEnce is the product recommended for use when treating bison This product, like all other biological natural-world solutions is ‘alive’ and must be stored according to the directions on the label.
  • balE Fly Control

        Easy Ordering Information:

    (919-789-0306) or send an email to ( Mention the fact that you have bison. The price should be 76.00 + shipping.

  • All biological products requiring mixing with water – should never be mixed with water containing agents that kill bacteria such as you may find in city water
    • Use collected rain water, water from dirt tanks, treated city water that has been left in a container for 48
  • Beneficial nematodes target fly eggs and larvae and are not included in the list of internal parasites that impact
  • DE is very dusty and It is not toxic when inhaled, but precautions should be taken to prevent inhalation of Diatomaceous Earth [DE] the same as other forms of very fine dust. I recommend using some sort of protection, or not breathing in when in heavy DE dust.
  • I have never observed any respiratory problems or eye irritation in my bison, or other bison from wallowing in They love it!

Why worry about the other stuff:

  • Naturally occurring fly predators are wasps, but susceptible to broad spectrum
    • They kill flies
    • On the Team!
  • Purchased fly predators are susceptible to most broad spectrum insecticide as well
    • On the Team!
  • Dragon flies kill and eat mosquitoes:
    • Mosquitoes carry disease
    • On the Team!
  • Native bees are susceptible to broad spectrum insecticide:
    • Some native pollinators are in significant decline
    • Pollination of native plants is important to grassland diversity & health
    • On the Team!
  • Insecticides can damage fly eating bird populations
    • Birds eat flies
    • On the Team!
  • Dung beetles: scarabs are not listed as effected by the fungus
    • Eat and burry fly and worm eggs
    • On the Team!


Broad spectrum insecticide produces more problems than it solves. Targeted fly management leaves the good organisms in place that are making you money. All you have to pay them – is a chance to work!

balEnce Testimonial:

Frasier Bison LLC:

We have experimented with many traditional chemical and ‘organic’ methods of managing fly populations. I can say that the use of balEnce and the technology of utilizing existing bison behavior have far surpassed any positive result we’ve experienced. We experience less fly management requirements with each passing year, which supports the hope that our farm, as a natural system, has become much less ‘fly-friendly’ with each year.


Identifying ‘Hot-Spots’:

 ‘Hot spots’ is a term used in fly control that refers to places where flies breed, lay eggs, feed and/or roost. I like to tell folks that we need to identify all the fly social settings and joke about the fly church, fly night clubs and fly hotels as a way to be effectively waging war where they live.

  • Feeders: most folks associate fly populations with only This is not entirely accurate and can be proven if you just do a recon mission for intel on the enemy. You will see that feeders and or feed storage areas are a big location for generating fly populations and become a very good place to apply the fungus to cause mortality by contact. If you have self feeders in your system made of metal, wood or plastic, you may notice that there is a black grunge attached. This is evidence of fly roosting whereas the flies leave behind their manure and regurgitation when they roost. Even when there are just a few flies at the beginning of the season, this black grunge indicates that spot as hot and a favored fly area.
  • Areas of Accumulated Organic Matter: This would include compost piles, wood chips, waste hay around the hay When the organic matter is in decay, they love it and we can use these areas to our advantage. Just look around as you’re out there and you will identify these areas.
  • Man Made Water Tanks: In the summer heat, it is very common to find large populations of flies on the shaded side of water Because bison have a beard, they tend to cause puddles and cool damp areas around the water tank. This is a favorite hang out for flies in the summer.
  • Brush Lines and Trees: We have mentioned the roosting behavior of One of the favorite roosting locations during the summer is hedge rows and trees. If you investigate you will find that during the heat they are on the underside of the leaves, in the shade, providing you a perfect place to cause contact with the fungus.
  • Dung Piles: While the dung beetle [scarab] is not listed as being affected by the fungus, I still hesitate in treating dung piles out of respect for the scarabs and what they do for It is however, a great place to achieve contact with the fungus. I will sometimes treat dung piles in areas of confinement, but not in the pasture – again! Just in case…

Mar 15, 2013 – Uploaded by zefrank1

Dung beetle dancing and re-orienting to a mirrored sun. Emily Baird/ Lund Vision … Dung beetle larva …

Dung Beetle

  • Farm Structure Walls: Flies also roost on the side of farm buildings and Their preference will change with the time of year and whether they seek shade or warmth. The balEnce product and fungus adheres well to all surfaces.


Using Fly Predators: There are companies that produce parasitic wasps or sometimes called ‘fly predators’ for fly control. I always recommend using a natural biologic method over chemical, but have learned that all wasps are not created equal and the efficacy yield can vary depending on the species of wasp used. Best results come from the right wasp species for an ecological region. The difference for me is in the ‘recovery’ potential of these bio-team members and that is what I base my purchase decisions on. Recovery means: do they reproduce? Or just go into a system, function for a time, and die off. The parasitic wasps and the fungus work very well together.

Fly Parasite Cycle
Planet Natural
Fly predator-Pest Fly
Fly predator-Pest Fly











Using Beneficial Nematodes: strategic dispersal of beneficial nematodes, as needed, is in my opinion one of the most effective support systems and full on ‘boots [in] the ground’ attack strategies on the enemy. These little guys come to you in trays of water soluble ‘goo’ – mix up in a hand spray unit, or large tractor spray unit – and are then distributed on to hot spots where flies are likely to lay eggs. They come up from below and eat the fly eggs and larvae. They reproduce well and are regenerative.

NematodesCourse Hero Nematode Lifecycle








Beneficial Nematodes | Master Gardeners of Santa Clara County…/nematodes/…


Master gardener program


Beneficial Nematodes. by: Allen Buchinski. In my previous article, I discussed “what are nematodes” with a focus on plant parasitic types. Here we’ll focus on the …

Ecological Role & Knowledge About Flies: Know Your Enemy!

Re: Why are houseflies important? – MadSci Network

Apr 13, 2000 – Thank you for your question about Houseflies. Houseflies belong to a group of flies called Filth Flies. Filth Flies get their names because they …

Vector: Filth Flies – Clemson University…/sch10b_03.pdf                                                                                                                        Clemson University

Clemson University Pest Samples

 Important Note:

When you begin your fly control program you should have two strategies. The first is obviously a direct assault on the existing enemy. The second is effectively dealing with the fly’s strategy of being one step ahead of you with their life cycle. Understanding that the adults live for 21 days – the eggs hatch into larvae in a few days and go through all the stages of development – it’s important to manage your ‘expectations’ as you go, and remain diligent with a schedule of treatment until you have control. Higher ambient temperatures can increase the speed of the life cycle, and it can take 4-6 weeks to gain control of highly infested areas. Once you have control, it gets so easy to maintain that you might forget to stay on top of it. I am just getting ready to activate my ecology with fungus because it’s time – in fact I’m late – but not because I have a fly population issue – it’s just time to stay on top of it. It’s all about a building inventory of eggs, larvae and pupae that you will need to work through at first, after which control and ecological balance are achieved. Remember! Flies are part of the natural system – but decadent populations are unhealthy and out of balance. Our bison, compared to their pre-Columbian ancestors, are sedentary – so, it’s up to the human element – otherwise known as a Bison Rancher – to manage for balance, control and happier Bison.


Identifying Signs of Fly Stress in Bison:

  • Irritated eyes and pink eye: Irritated eyes can be caused by many different things, but seem to happen during the season that fly populations exist. Actual pink eye may or may not be the case, but anything that causes inflamed eyes and blood over the cornea [can] result in blind.
  • Fly Stress in Bison
  • Raw areas on the back and flank: Bison swat flies with their head more than their tail. They slap the same area hundreds of times per day with their rough tongue and horn causing abrasions than can be easily confused as evidence of
  • Fly Stress on Cows
  • Running across the pasture: normally to a dirt tank and sometimes combined with kicking out signals the presence of heal flies which are a biting

Authors Note:

So – You just want to know how to start managing for fly control in your ecosystem which you probably call your place, your herd, your ranch, farm or something other than your ecosystem. Well, guess what? – It’s an ecosystem! You are causing ecological interactions whether you do nothing at all, go the chemical route, or go the biological route with beneficial organisms to control fly populations. The question before you as you decide; is which cycle of spending, work and circumstance do you choose to cause? Regardless of your choice, you will struggle with occasional doubts about any program from time to time when fly populations ‘bank-up’. This is normal and perceived by some as something failing or not working. The truth is, the flies are just that successful as a species in your system and you should simply prepare to react with the benefit of knowledge about what’s really happening. This is why I prefer biological or natural- world solutions over broad spectrum chemical approaches. I spend less money, the products reproduce themselves and create populations bigger than I put out, and I know I am causing an unfriendly environment for the flies without contributing to the decline of native pollinators and other species working [for] me. .


Nothing is perfect and nature is chaotic. The best you can do; is be a beneficial organism.


Tim Frasier Frasier Bison LLC

 Terregena, Inc. | Your Challenges, Our Solutions, Naturally

Terregena, Inc. Terregena© Inc. is dedicated to bringing unique, state-of-the- art technologies and products to the agricultural, animal health and veterinary …

Beauveria bassiana – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

 Beauveria bassiana is a fungus that grows naturally in soils throughout the world and acts as a parasite on various arthropod species, causing white muscardine …

DE – should be available at the local feed store for 20 [ish] bucks a bag.

  • Important Note: Use food grade DE only!!

Ten Birds That Help Control Garden Pests – eNature: Articles: Detail

But they can help keep insect populations in your neighborhood at a stable, balanced level, … Which bug-eating birds are the best ones to attract to your yard?

Pyrethroids: Not as safe as you think –

Also used for control of crawling and flying insects (e.g. flies, ants, fleas, … To ensure long-lasting effects,

the pyrethroid may be mixed with a fixative to make it stay … encountered when feeding on the nectar of feverfew and chrysanthemums, … in hamsters and mice; deformities in amphibians; blood abnormalities in birds.

Pesticide Considerations for Native Bees in Agroforestry USDA…

tance of native bees may increase if the number of honey bee colonies available for … side effects of pesticides and provide a refuge for native pollinators.

Pesticides and Pollinators – Beyond Pesticides

Pesticides, alone and in combination with other factors, have had a … Wild pollinators, which include bees, wasps, beetles, flies, butterflies, moths, birds,.

Dung Beetles in Pasture – North Carolina Cooperative Extension…/guidetoncdungbeetles.pdf

North Carolina State University

Fly Control Buzz September 2009 – Rincon-Vitova Insectaries

Dung Beetle Field Day … Learn about the parasites and the latest traps and lures, including new balEnce™ products made from a natural fly pathogen.