Sweet Itch Prevention

What causes Sweet Itch

Sweet Itch is a medical condition in equines caused by an allergic response to the bites of Culicoides midges.

Culicoides is a genus of biting midges in the family Ceratopogonidae. There are over 1000 species in the genus, which is divided into many subgenera. Several species are known to be vectors of various diseases and parasites which can affect animals.



The midges lifestyle

Female midges lay their eggs in the soft mud in areas of standing water, so these areas must be avoided where possible. When horses are turned out to grass, it is best to avoid areas lined with trees or those close to water sources. 

Midges will tend to gather in any sheltered or low lying areas where the air is very still, so these areas should be fenced to keep the horse away. Areas that are naturally exposed, such as hillsides/ tops, will have a reduced midge population due to midges being blown away with a wind more than 4mph.

They are most active dusk till dawn so keeping your horse in during these times is best, you can also buy screens to put up over you stable door to prevent the midges entering. 


During Turnout

This is the most likely time your horse will get bitten and cause a reaction. 

Today there are many items on the market with fly rugs giving great protection and protecting your horse from UV rays.

Another way is using fly repellents but which one is always the question.

horse flies

Which fly repellent ingredients

Citronella is a favourite ingredient in many brands including FLY-OFF but recent reseach from South Africa has shown it has no effect and may even attract these types of flies. The only ingredient to work effectively was DEET. ( https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25686204 )

In our customer reviews 2019 we also found once the CITRO tag was removed people found the product worked, these were mainly customers with Sweet Itch ponies or lived near orchards. The combination of NEEM & DEET seemed the most effective and appeared to then work.

The CITRO inserts seemed the most effective with Horse Flies, Mosquito's and Mites but according to our customer reviews  not against midges or fruit flies. 

From this information if you are trying repel midges we recommend NEEM & DEET mixture for protection.



Sprays, Gel, Wax or wearable repellents

The main problem with fly repellents is they dont last all night. This especially effects sweet itch horses which are most vunrable at dusk. So unless you going to get up rediculously early your horse will be unprotected. 

Now avaliable on the market are Gels and Wax products which do appear to last longer but not all night. 

Another problem is if your horse sweets or theres a shower the repellent just washes off and again unprotected.

A few products have come out on the market wearing the repellent which gradually releases the repellent over time giving your horse protection, they are usually waterproof and protect upto 90 cm away. 

Here at FLY-OFF we have this type of repellent with a new deisgn which combines an internal resivour with impregnated rubber to release the repellent accordingly. They are also adjustable strentgh. 


horse flies

We recommend using the NEEM & DEET inserts with Sweet Itch horses. The CITRO are great for yourself especially against mosquitos abroad and leave in your suitcase to stop bring bed bugs home.