Tuesday, June 25, 2024
HomeNotes From KathyPaint Cows Like Zebras to Reduce Flies

Paint Cows Like Zebras to Reduce Flies

For years, scientists have tried to answer the question, “Why do Zebras have stripes?” Theories included that stripes were good camouflage, that they were some kind of “air-conditioning” or a signal to herd mates. But lately, there’s growing agreement that it’s all about protection from biting flies.

The conclusions come as a result of a variety of studies. In one, Japanese scientists painted some cows with zebra stripes and some with black stripes, and compared the fly-biting results among the two groups and to cows that had no paint at all. They found that zebra-like stripes on cows decreased the incidence of biting flies landing on and biting cows.

Why Don’t Flies Bite Animals With Zebra Stripes?

We know that biting flies are attracted by odors, shape, movement, brightness, color, polarization, and body temperature. So why would stripes make any difference? It turns out scientists have been studying that too, comparing the success of fly traps painted solid black to those painted with white stripes, and even dressing horses in zebra coats to watch fly behavior.

Though they’re not sure yet, evidence suggests that the stripes confuse the fly’s motion detection systems. They approach their targets too fast and fail to decelerate as they normally would, so they hit the target and bounce off.

If you’re looking at these pictures and seeing an issue – you’re right. Unpainted faces of the animals are still susceptible to flies.

Of course the other issue is: “How do I paint my livestock?” I’m sure I’m not the only person thinking, “Hey, maybe I can create an easy template and sell it!” 🙂 Or, what if when you put your stock in the squeeze chute, you used the bars as your stencil and painted on white stripes?

I can come up with all kinds of solutions depending on your situation. 🙂 If you’ve got some ideas too, post them in the comments below.

Thanks for reading!


Your Tips Keep This Library Online

This resource only survives with your assistance.

Kathy Voth
Kathy Vothhttps://onpasture.com
I am the founder, editor and publisher of On Pasture, now retired. My career spanned 40 years of finding creative solutions to problems, and sharing ideas with people that encouraged them to work together and try new things. From figuring out how to teach livestock to eat weeds, to teaching range management to high schoolers, outdoor ed graduation camping trips with fifty 6th graders at a time, building firebreaks with a 130-goat herd, developing the signs and interpretation for the Storm King Fourteen Memorial trail, receiving the Conservation Service Award for my work building the 150-mile mountain bike trail from Grand Junction, Colorado to Moab, Utah...well, the list is long so I'll stop with, I've had a great time and I'm very grateful.


Comments are closed.

Welcome to the On Pasture Library

Free Ebook!

Latest Additions

Most Read