Japanese scientists have discovered painting a cow to look like a zebra reduces fly bites by 50%! This could become an environmentally friendly alternative to pesticides.
The study, published in the journal Plos One, found that the disguise significantly reduces fly attacks. The scientists believe the striped pattern confuses the fly's motion detection, thereby detering the pests. It took about five minutes to paint 4 cm to 5 cm stripes on the Japanese black cows using commercial waterborne white lacquers that fade easily. For the study two cows were painted with white stripes, two with black stripes, and two left unpainted for control purposes. The process was repeated, over nine days, with each cow spending three days striped, painted, or unpainted. Only 55 flies were seen on the zebra cows, compared with 111 on the black-painted cows, and 128 on the unpainted cows.
Previous studies have shown that flies were less likely to land on horses wearing striped blankets but this was the first study with painted cows. The researchers want to confirm this link between stripes and less flies, in addition to finding a less labor intensive way to ensure the cows remain patterned and zebra-like.