Identifying insect bites on horses

Written by rena sherwood
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Identifying insect bites on horses
(Image from Wikimedia Commons.)

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Where Is The Bite Located?

If the bite is just above the hooves and below the fetlocks, chances are they could be fire ant bites. According to Equine Disease Quarterly, fire ants can bite and sting at the same time. Female flies (the only ones that bite) tend to prefer a horse's face, anus, genitals and any sweaty parts of the shoulders and neck. They are attracted to the moist parts of a horse. Mosquito bites can occur anywhere on a horse's exposed flesh. The Complete Equine Veterinary Manual states that ear mites only occupy a horse's ears, while other lice species go in the mane and tail and lower legs.

What Color Is The Bite?

Bites from flies, mosquitoes and ticks do not change the colour of the horse's skin, unless the horse has scratched enough to break the skin. However, fire ant bites and harvest mite (chigger) bites usually leave the skin looking red. If the bite swelling looks brown or green, check closely. That is most likely an engorged tick, which has swollen up so much with blood that the legs will be nearly impossible to spot. The head will be buried into the horse's skin and not visible.

How Itchy Is It?

Insect bites can look like tiny lumps under the horses' skin that might not have a dot of blood in the centre. Fire ant or harvest mites will be an angry red and obvious to see. But sometimes they can be hard to see. According to The Complete Equine Veterinary Manual, ear mites or bites from ear mites can be difficult to see, but if a horse is scratching, chewing or rubbing the ears a lot, then that's a sign of ear mites. So, if even if you can't see the bite but the horse is itching, that area needs to be checked out.

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