Opinion: The zebra secret

POSTED: 02/15/12 1:38 PM

Maybe this is the news MP George Pantophlet has been waiting for all these years: a solution for the midges. We’re not sure if the following would work, but it is at least worth a shot, given the fact that the government is apparently doing nothing to get rid of this plague. If it does not work we have not lost anything.

Researchers from Sweden and Hungary have discovered that the stripes on zebras serve a unique purpose: to keep insects that spread diseases horseflies and hornets at bay. The researchers published their findings in the Journal of Experimental Biology.

The zebras are becoming unattractive for vermin because of the way their striped fur reflects light.

The researchers started their experiments with horses with a black, brown and white fur. On brown and black horses light reflects in horizontal paths, something that is attractive for flies. On white horses the light is reflected in all directions – and flies are less attracted to this.

To see how all this would work with zebras the researchers placed boards in a field in Hungary: one white, one black, and one with different patterns; they pasted insect glue on the boards. The striped board that was most similar to the fur of a zebra attracted by far the least flies, even less than the white board.

They also did the test with three-dimensional horses with different colors and patterns. The result was the same: the striped model attracted the least number of flies.

Biologists have searched for years for an explanation about the stripe zebra fur, but now there seems to be a reasonable explanation.

And how could our MP George Pantophlet use this information in the fight against midges? Well, that’s simple. He ought to stop wearing dark suits and order an outfit that emulates the fur of a zebra. He should also get an paint job done on his car to match the suit. If the experiment works, and the midges take a hike, the sky is the limit: all buildings around the Great Salt Pond will start looking like zebras.

Our MP does not have to worry that his zebra-outfit will make people think he escaped from the Pointe Blanche prison. That’s because our inmates wear outfits of a color that actually attracts flies.


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