House fly populations in livestock or poultry production can be reduced with biological control agents, such as parasitic wasps, in conjunction with good sanitary practices. Muscovy ducks are another natural predator of flies, actively seeking and consuming house flies. In laboratory experiments ducks were able to remove flies from an enclosed area 30 times faster than could fly traps or other control devices. A 1989 study investigated the feasibility and management of ducks for fly control on operating swine and dairy facilities in Guelph, Ontario, Canada.
The ducks were most effective in removing flies from enclosed areas, where new flies were not continually entering the area. In screened calf pens that contained a duck, adult flies and maggots were virtually eliminated. Even though the ducks only eat the adults, removal of the adults eliminates potential maggot populations. In an enclosed swine farrowing or calf room fly populations on animals were reduced 84-93%. The ducks were not very effective in open areas, such as open dairy areas or a dry sow house, where house flies could move in or out.
Supplemental feed was not required for the ducks as long as they had access to water, spilled feed and livestock manure. Four-to five-week-old ducks were used (younger ducks would be unlikely to survive when penned with livestock or could be killed by barnyard predators), and the birds were sold at the end of the fly season for human consumption. In this experiment the ducks were sold for twice the invested cost.
Farmers liked the fact that the ducks quickly controlled the fly population and they saved $100-300 by not having to purchase pesticides for fly control, but they didn't like the ducks defecating in the aisles. Duck maintenance costs were very low (they only required water--provided in a chick waterer), and all of the producers involved in the study planned to use ducks in the following season.
As with other biological control agents, ducks are an effective fly control only as a supplement to good sanitation.
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