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Study finds painting cows in zebra stripes reduces fly bites

In an effort to reduce pesticide use, scientists in Japan have found that painting a cow in zebra stripes drastically reduces bites from pesky flies. The result of the study published in science journal Plos One was very promising with fly bites reduced by 50% on painted cows.

The researchers behind the study believe that painting cattle to look something like a zebra is a world-first in curbing insect bites amongst bovines. They are hopeful that the practice will be an eco-friendly alternative to the continuous use of pesticides.

During the research process, six pregnant black Japanese cows were painted with white stripes that were four to five centimeters in width. The paints used were “commercial waterborne white lacquers” that could easily be washed off.

By using the zebra disguise the Japanese scientists found that fly attacks were “significantly reduced,” as per The Guardian. Results suggest that the striped pattern confuses the pest’s motion detection abilities thereby deterring them.

“This phenomenon has been explained as modulation brightness or polarized light,” the scientists wrote in the paper. “Biting flies are the most damaging arthropod pests of cattle worldwide,” the report added. Fly bites in the United States alone generate an economic impact of an estimated USD2.2 billion a year. With this method, costs going to pesticides could be significantly reduced with carbon footprints lessened.

“In future, the development of more effective techniques to ensure the persistence of black-and-white stripes on livestock during the biting fly season (3-4 months) may be necessary,” the scientists wrote.