Ranchers might want to consider painting “zebra stripes” on their livestock. According to a new study published in PLoS ONE, the measure reduces the number of biting flies on cows by more than half.
Biting flies are one of the great banes of cows worldwide. The irritating insects cause cows to graze less, eat less, sleep less, and also to bunch together into tightly clumped groups, which stresses the animals and leads to more injuries. The damage done by biting flies equates to roughly $2.2 billion in yearly economic losses for the U.S. cattle industry.
Seeking a potential solution to this situation, a team of Japanese researchers cleverly applied lessons from research on zebras. Animal scientists have long pondered the function of zebras’ dsitinct stripes, and a growing consensus now suggests that they deter insects, possibly by confusing bugs’ motion detection systems that control approach and landing.
Source: Kojima T, Oishi K, Matsubara Y, Uchiyama Y, Fukushima Y, Aoki N, et al. (2019) Cows painted with zebra-like striping can avoid biting fly attack. PLoS ONE 14(10): e0223447. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0223447