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Horse Stripes Shoo Flies

Friday, January 31, 2014

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In Germany, a real-life horse of a different color is proving hot to trot against its age-old nemesis.

A stallion in Weye, Germany, has been painted to resemble a zebra.

The reason? It apparently keeps bloodsucking horse flies from biting.

zebra stripes
G Horvath via

Researchers at Lund University in Sweden discovered that stripes, and maybe polka dots, are unappealing to horse flies because of the way the patterns reflect light.

Using cattle paint, the horse's owner, Claudia Wide, striped one of her horses after learning that wild zebras don't get bitten by pesky horse flies, reported (with photos).

Shoo, Fly!

Last year, researchers at Lund University in Sweden discovered that the black and white stripes keep the horse flies at bay because the patterns reflect light in a different way.

Female horse flies usually prefer to feed on mammalian blood. The bites are not only painful, but they can also  transmit diseases.

A polka-dot pattern may also be unappealing to the flies, according to the researchers.

"Polarotactic tabanid flies find striped or spotted patterns with intensity and/or polarisation modulation visually less attractive than homegenous white, brown or black targets," the researchers said.

horse flies
Wikimedia Commons / Dennis Ray

Horse flies' painful bites can also transmit diseases. A horse owner in Germany has painted her stallion like a zebra to try to keep the flies away.

The researchers went to a horse farm in Hungary, where the bloodsucking insects are prevalent, to test the flies' attraction to panels painted with different black-and-white patterns.

Panels with the narrowest stripes attracted the fewest horseflies, suggesting that this may be one reason why zebras evolved to have stripes.


Tagged categories: Decorative painting; Paint application

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