Why Do Flies Stay Away From Zebras?

Why Do Flies Stay Away From Zebras?

Despite being a recognizable color, zebras still struggle to deter flies. That’s because their coats are made up of light and dark stripes that make them less appealing to flies than white or black horses. Researchers in Japan measured the amount of flies that landed on zebras and their stripes in a series of experiments. The researchers found that narrower stripes were more effective at repelling flies than wider ones. In addition, the stripes on the legs and faces of the zebras were thinner and less appealing to flies than the striped sides of white horses.

While these observations seem intuitive, there is no scientific proof that the stripes are to blame for flies’ aversion to zebras. In a second study, researchers examined zebras and domestic horses in the UK. The researchers found that zebras were less attractive to flies than striped horses, but they did not observe flies biting zebras.

To answer this question, scientists must understand the zebra’s cooling mechanism. The animal’s coat contains a protein called latherin that helps sweat spread across the animal’s skin and increase its exposure to air and evaporation. The latherin helps the sweat spread from the animal’s skin to the hair tips.

In the same study, researchers dressed horses in zebra-like clothing and recorded how zebra-striped clothes deter flies. They found that the striped coats kept flies away, despite the unpleasant odor. Further, the striped horses did not attract any bites.