Could body painting protect against insect bites?


  • Mary Corcoran
  • Univadis Medical News
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White-striped body paintings may serve to deter horseflies according to new research published in the Royal Society Open Source.

Observing that horseflies are deterred by the black and white stripes of zebras, researchers in Sweden and Hungary hypothesised that white-striped paintings on dark brown human bodies could have a similar effect. They tested the theory in a field experiment in Hungary using three plastic models of humans painted homogeneous dark brown, dark brown with white stripes and homogeneous light beige. The three models were covered with a layer of insect glue and placed in a meadow in Hungary, in both standing and lying positions, between 22 June and 16 August 2015. 

The researchers found the dark model attracted 10 times more horseflies than the striped model, and the beige model attracted twice as many as the striped one. Considering the total catches of horseflies that were trapped on the models, the brown, beige and white-striped brown models trapped 77.1, 15.2 and 7.7 per cent of horseflies, respectively. 

The authors concluded that white-striped body paintings on brown skin have the advantageous effect of protecting against blood-sucking horseflies by making the skin surface less visually attractive to horseflies compared with homogeneous brown-skinned human bodies.