The Royal Society

Supplementary material from "Striped bodypainting protects against horseflies"

Posted on 2018-12-21 - 09:46
Bodypainting is widespread in African, Australian and Papua New Guinean indigenous communities. Many bodypaintings use white or bright yellow/grey/beige stripes on brown skin. Where the majority of people using bodypainting presently live, blood-sucking horseflies are abundant, and they frequently attack the naked brown regions of the human body surface with the risk of transmitting the pathogens of dangerous diseases. Since horseflies are deterred by the black and white stripes of zebras, we hypothesized that white-striped paintings on dark brown human bodies have a similar effect. In a field experiment in Hungary, we tested this hypothesis. We show that the attractiveness to horseflies of a dark brown human body model significantly decreases, if it is painted with the white stripes that are used in bodypaintings. Our brown human model was 10 times more attractive to horseflies than the white-striped brown model, and a beige model, which was used as a control, attracted two times more horseflies than the striped brown model. Thus, white-striped bodypaintings, such as those used by African and Australian people, may serve to deter horseflies, which is an advantageous byproduct of these bodypaintings that could lead to reduced irritation and disease transmission by these blood-sucking insects.


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Royal Society Open Science


Gábor Horváth
Ádám Pereszlényi
Susanne Åkesson
György Kriska
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