Every year, without fail, people across the Northern Agricultural Region sigh in frustration as hordes of Australian bush flies burst into action during their peak breeding season in the warmer months.
Traditionally the bush fly has been a far greater nuisance insect than the stable fly, however this trend is changing. In the southern part of the NACC NRM region, infestation of stable fly has been increasing – and they are causing community unrest due to their impact on humans and livestock, and on the agricultural industry in general. The stable fly attacks humans, domestic pets and livestock – seeking to draw the blood that is essential to complete its life cycle.
The Shire of Gingin is recognised as one of the worst-affected areas, with the Department of Primary Industry and Regional Development (DPIRD) estimating $4-5million of livestock productivity lost in this area, each year.
As a response to this problem, the Stable Fly Action Group has formed a partnership with DPIRD to make inroads into the problem, and recently worked together to conduct a stable fly symposium at the Granville Centre in Gingin.
The purpose of this meeting was to inform livestock producers, vegetable growers, NRM practitioners, local shire representatives, and interested industry people of the latest research conducted to date on measures that can be taken to reduce the impact of this notorious pest insect.
The keynote speaker at the symposium was world-leading researcher and entomologist Dr David Taylor of the United States’ Department of Agriculture – all the way from Lincoln, Nebraska. Dr Taylor presented his international research outcomes on stable fly in United States, Costa Rica and Brazil. According to Dr Taylor, the stable fly was the most frustrating insect he had ever dealt with.
Every time he thought he knew a little more about this species, new information would be revealed, and he would have to throw everything he knew back up in the air.
“What I have learned is that there are three ways to deal with the stable fly and these are sanitation, sanitation, sanitation,” Dr Taylor said.
Unlike other flies in the Muscidae family, the male and female stable fly are blood feeders, and they draw blood once or twice a day, every single day for their complete life cycle. They tend to feed on the lower legs and body of cattle, and can take from two to four minutes to complete a meal.
Great stable fly symposium featuring a world renowned SF expert Dr David Taylor from Nevada. Thanks SF action group & Perth NRM 4 organising pic.twitter.com/SQ9UZQOzuq
— Stanley Yokwe (@StanleyYokwe) November 2, 2017
Another highlight of the day was an excellent presentation by world leading forensic entomologist Dr David Cook of the Department of Primary Industry and Regional Development. Dr Cook and his team have been working on on-farm trials in WA with mulching vegetable waste (a breeding haven for this fly), and compacting the soil at varying depths to test the strength of newly-hatched stable flies as they emerge from the pupae.
Dr Cook said compaction of the coarse sandy soils found in WA’s vegetable growing regions would prove 95 per cent successful in eradicating stable fly.
Don Telfer, also from DPIRD, provided a brief update about current work on stable fly. He stated that there were mandatory stable fly management practices for a number of industries in 12 shires along the coastal plain, south and north of Perth. Mr Telfer said the rules applied to the livestock, olive, chicken and vegetable growing industries, and centred around correct treatment of organic material which could be used as a breeding ground for the flies.
“The regulations basically say if you find any more than five stable flies, or stable fly larvae, per square metre, it becomes a regulatory issue,” he said.
NACC was represented at the symposium by Regional Landcare Facilitator Stanley Yokwe, who said that it was great to attend the event and hear the latest information on stable fly. “It was very useful to hear from the international experts and to learn how people in other regions of the world are dealing with this nuisance fly,” he said. “Congratulations to the Stable Fly Action Group on behalf of NACC for organising the successful and worthwhile symposium.
“I would like to thank them for their effort in acting as active community voice to find solutions in eradicating stable flies in the region.”
For more information about the Stable Fly Action Group, please go to Stable Fly Action Group website http://www.stableflyactiongroup.org.au/ or Department of Primary Industry and Regional Development website: https://www.agric.wa.gov.au/vegetables/stable-fly-western-australia