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“Natural” Fly Sprays?

As Spring slides into summer, the flies have arrived and so begins our annual foray into finding the best and safest fly spray.

We've always been concerned about the toxicity of pyrethrins, the insecticidal ingredient in many fly sprays. But, at the same time, effectiveness is absolutely critical when it comes to protection, particularly given the concerns of serious fly-borne disease, such as Pigeon Fever.

What is "Natural?"

Some of the confusion about fly spray ingredients lies in the words "natural" and "organic." Pyrethrins, you see, are natural, organic compounds, harvested from the seed case of the perennial plant pyrethrum (Chrysanthemum cinerariaefolium). Though they are natural and sound innocuous, they can be dangerous. An overdose can cause very severe reactions in humans and pets and pyrethrins are known toxins to fish, birds, and bees.

We asked a veterinarian friend her opinion on the pyrethrin-based insecticide vs. herbal repellent issue and her answer was this: whatever you use, it has to work. Herbal repellents will likely need frequent and very thorough application, which is not always an option for some horse owners.

What Works?

What works for us here in Oregon may not work for others elsewhere, but here's a rundown of our own personal experience and research on pyrethrin-based sprays and alternatives.

Heavy season – We've used EquiSect Fly Repellent, which contains an active pyrethrum approved for use in Certified Organic Farming, with positive results during the heavy fly season. In addition to this trademarked "PyGanic," EquiSect also contains citronella, clove, and thyme oils.

In boarding situations where we haven't been able to get to the barn daily, Tri Tech 14, a pyrethrin based spray, has delivered on its claim of multi-day protection.

Another repellent we've heard great things about is Deo Lotion, a German product available in concentrate, gel, or roll-on. The active ingredients are citronella, clove, thyme, cedar, and geranium oils. We're planning to try Deo as part of our mid-season battle and see how far it carries us into the height of the war on flies.

Do you have a favorite fly spray you'd like to share with our readers? Leave a comment and let us know what has worked (or hasn't) for you.

Dappled Grey’s blog,, and Weekly Guide are curated by Molly Knott, a thirty-something equestrian with a lifetime of experience in the English riding disciplines of Hunters, Equitation, and Dressage. Like you, a passion for horses and riding influences every aspect of her personal taste and style. A Stanford-educated education policy researcher, Molly now uses her talents in research and writing to create a first-of-its-kind online lifestyle guide for English equestrian sports. From Style and Equipment to Travel, Culture, and Community, Dappled Grey is your personal concierge to the best of the English equestrian lifestyle.

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3 comments on ““Natural” Fly Sprays?
  1. Jill K says:

    Deo lotion is the way to go! No harsh chemical and works like a charm. Have used it for years and years, ever since it was Clac Deo. And everyone at the barn always loves the smell! Nothing better, and the concentrate makes it that much more affordable!

  2. AllSafe says:

    Natural pest control companies may be able to help.

  3. Kristen says:

    I started using the EquiSect last summer and I LOVE it. I’ve tried almost every fully “natural” product out there and stated above, they don’t last long and they tend to leave a greasy residue on my horse. EquiSect works very well and there’s no build up of “gunk” on my horse! I have not used the Deo Lotion, but plan to try it this summer – why not!

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