1990 - Volume #14, Issue #3, Page #20[ Sample Stories From This Issue | List of All Stories In This Issue | Print this story | Read this issue]
Ducks Make Great Fly Catchers
Preliminary findings say ducks do a bet-ter job than commercial fly traps and greatly reduce the need for insecticides. In experiments, ducks consumed flies at a rate about 30 times faster than any other commercial fly control device.
"Ducks instinctively feed on adult house flies," says Barry Glofcheskie, a graduate student who performed the experiments. "Ducks have several advantages over commercial fly-control devices and insecticides which can cost $400 or more per season. Flies can develop resistance to some insecticides. Ducks are mobile so they can move to where the flies are. They're also a safe and continuous fly-control method. They eat any spilled feed that generally attracts flies. However, they don't appear interested in feed lying in bunks or mangers. Ducks are also inexpensive to buy, and once fattened on flies and other feed, they can be butchered and sold. A producer could make a . profit of $65 on 10 ducks by selling them or eating them at the end of the season.
"Ducks do have some disadvantages, however. Duck manure may or may not be a problem, depending on the farm and location of the cows and calves. And ducks can't be used around poultry barns because they can carry bird diseases that could be transmitted to chickens or turkeys."
Researchers tested ducks in two pens inside an Ontario dairy farmer's barn. Each pen contained one Jersey calf and one duck. The pens had conventional straw bedding and were cleaned out every second week. Each duck was provided with water to which the calf did not have access, but ducks had to scavenge for their food. Hardware cloth was secured to the sides of the pen to restrain the ducks. The calves quickly adjusted to the ducks, and within 48 hours, the ducks were picking flies from the backs of the calves as they rested or slept. On aver-age, a duck made 32 attempts every 15 min. to catch a fly and consumed about 23 in that time.
Later trials indicated that providing feed for ducks didn't dampen their fly-catching instincts.
As a result of the preliminary observations of this on-farm experiment, the re-searchers also tested the ducks in laboratory experiments in which they compared the ducks with four commercially available fly control devices: a fly sheet, fly paper, liquid attractant, and a bait card. Each device, as well as a duck, was placed in a separate fly-proof screened cage and 100 flies were then released in each cage. Ducks consumed 90% of the flies within 30 minutes - a rate about 30 times faster than that of other devices. In comparison, catching 90% of the flies took 8 hours with a fly sheet, 15 hours with fly paper, 16 hours using liquid attractant, and 86 hours with a bait card.
"All the ducks in our study were female, but we suspect that males would behave similarly or even better because they have a higher requirement for dietary protein than female ducks, which might translate into higher fly consumption," says Glofcheskie. "Our experiments found that a duck's age wasn't a factor; both young and old ducks enjoyed feasting on flies. The ducks we tested were Muscovy. We haven't evaluated other duck breeds yet but we hope to conduct further testing on more dairy farms, as well as hog and beef farms."
Contact: FARM SHOW Followup, Barry Glofcheskie, University of Guelph, Ontario Agricultural College, Dept. of Environmental Biology, Guelph, Ontario, Canada N1G 2W1 (ph 519 824-4120).
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