Boffins reckon painting stripes onto cattle reduces fly attacks which could mean less need for pesticides.
The study, published by Japanese scientists in the journal Plos One, found fly attacks were “significantly reduced” by the disguise. The scientists believe the striped pattern confuses the fly’s motion detection and deters the pests.
In what was a five-minute process for each animal, researchers painted white, 4cm to 5cm stripes on six pregnant Japanese black cows. The stripes were drawn freehand, using “commercial waterborne white lacquers” that faded easily.
The laquered bovines were then observed. Two of the cows were painted with white stripes, two with black stripes and two were left unpainted for a control. The process then repeated so, over nine days, each cow spent three days striped, painted black or unpainted.
Only 55 flies were observed on the zebra cows, compared with 111 on the black-painted cows and 128 on the control cows.
Flies stop cattle from grazing, feeding and sleeping, and can cause “bunching behaviours”, where cattle jostle for space to escape flies, causing heat stress and injury.