I’ve heard of a wolf in sheep’s clothing, but did you know that dressing up cows like zebras can cut down on the use of pesticides?
A recently published Japanese study found that painting zebra-like stripes on cows significantly reduced attacks by biting flies, providing a means of defending livestock against flies, without using pesticides.
The study’s inspiration came from past experiments that suggested the striped coats of zebras ― and black and white surfaces in general ― attract fewer flies than the solid black color of the Japanese bovines that were studied.
According to the study, flies are less likely to land on black and white surfaces due to the polarization of light, which impairs the perception of their compound eyes. Researchers found that the zebra-painted cattle were bitten nearly 50% less than solid-black animals.
Fly bites are more than an annoyance. The insects interfere with cattle grazing and feeding, increase fly-repelling behaviors like foot stamping and head throwing, and cause cattle to bunch together, which increases heat stress and risk of injury. Believe it or not, fly bites are estimated to cost the livestock industry billions every year.
“This work provides an alternative to the use of conventional pesticides for mitigating biting fly attacks on livestock that improves animal welfare and human health, in addition to helping resolve the problem of pesticide resistance in the environment,” the researchers wrote in their concluding statements.
So, the next time you go on a hike through the woods, and you want to reduce insect bites, you may want to dress like a zebra – after all, the results of this study were pretty black and white!