WASHINGTON – Build a better fly trap and the cows will beat a path to your barn.
That’s what a University of Maryland inventor and Orkin are counting on.
Working with the Department of Agriculture, the university has developed and patented a tunnel-like device that’s attractive to both cattle and bugs.
Cows quickly learn that if they go in, they come out bug- free. Bugs, brushed off and electrocuted inside, never knew what hit them.
A commercial version of the walk-through fly trap – trademarked the Fly Blocker System – will be available to farmers in the United States and Canada this spring in time for fly season, said Larry Rufledt, director of Orkin Agribusiness Services.
Orkin will manufacture and sell the trap under a licensing agreement with the university. Customers can expect delivery within three weeks of ordering, said spokeswoman Susan Morris.
She said a price has not been determined.
The trap is a white chute, 5 feet 6 inches tall, 32 inches wide and 8 feet long, Morris said. Flies are attracted to white.
Inside, plastic strips brush flies from the bodies of cattle as they walk through. Flies then try to escape through open grates in the sides of the chute, but are electrocuted.
“Cattle get used to it real quick,” said Thomas Moreland, who manages the university’s dairy research center in Clarksville and invented the fly trap with the help of Lawrence Pickens and Richard Miller of USDA.
Cows don’t seem to mind the buzzing and sparking inside the tunnel that rids them of their pests, Moreland said. Experiencing the relief the tunnel provides, cows soon learn to walk through it as needed, he said.
Flies are a serious concern to farmers and more than an annoyance to farm animals. They carry disease and can cause an animal to lose weight and condition.
In three years of testing at the university, the trap reduced horn files by 87 percent and face flies by 71 percent, Moreland said.
The trap greatly reduces the need to use insect repellents, Moreland said, estimating that he used less than 32 ounces of spray at the research farm last season.
Flies quickly develop resistance to repellents because the insects have short life cycles and reproduce rapidly, Moreland said.
But, he said, flies do not build an immunity to electricity.
Responding to a description of the trap, Maryland Farm Bureau President William Knill, who raises beef cattle, said, “I think it could work very well.”
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