Research shows that zebra stripes are to keep horseflies away

Zebra stripes are nothing to do with camoflauge… they keep blood-sucking horseflies away, research shows

  • Scientists claim stripy body-paint used by aboriginal Africans scatters light 
  • This makes it harder for insects to see them and therefore prevents any bites 
  • They tested this theory with mannequins and found that horseflies kept away

Primitive tribes trying to avoid painful horsefly bites may have turned to zebras for inspiration.

Although the creature’s black and white stripes are thought to act as camouflage, research has shown that they also deter blood-sucking horseflies.

Scientists claim stripy body-paint used by aboriginal Africans scatters light, making it harder for insects to see them.

Although a zebra’s black and white stripes are thought to act as camouflage, research has shown that they also deter blood-sucking horseflies

Scientists claim stripy body-paint used by aboriginal Africans scatters light, making it harder for insects (such as a horsefly – pictured) to see them


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To test this, they painted mannequins with stripes similar to the body art of tribal people, and found horseflies kept away, as with earlier tests on zebras.

The authors, from Eotvos Lorand University in Hungary, wrote in the Royal Society Journal: ‘The most striking striped mammals are zebras. Their striped pattern reduces attractiveness to horseflies. 

‘Our brown human model was ten times more attractive to horseflies than the white-striped model.’

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