How our Zebra Fly Sheet Pattern is Deterring Flies

There isn’t much more in the warmer months that bothers horses than those pestering, biting flies and insects. Despite our best efforts as horse owners, using Fly Sprays and Fly Sheets for horses, sometimes it just seems like we can never do enough to slow down those annoying bugs.

That is, until studies were done that determined the unique zebra stripe pattern found on zebras may offer more than just a fashion statement among the herd. Meet the newest pattern in horse fashion with a purpose – the Zebra Fly Sheet!

Now, we’re introducing our new Dura-Tech® Interlock Mesh Zebra Fly Sheet that offers a fun yet functional print to keep your horse cool, protect from UV-rays, and even help slow down flies from ever landing on your horse. In this blog, we’ll explain how zebra fly sheets for horses can help deter flies, and why regular horses are now getting an upgrade on their fly-wear designs.

Zebra Fly Sheet

How do Zebra Stripes Keep Flies Away?

It has traditionally been thought that zebras had their stripes to camouflage themselves, interact or identify with other zebras, and even to help regulate their temperatures, especially while standing in open plains under the hot summer sun. One specific theory, that the stripes help prevent them from being bit by insects that carry deadly diseases, has finally proven the be true, at least for one method as to why they may have their unique stripes.

In 2014, researchers at the University of California Davis conducted a study and experiments to find out for themselves how the unique pattern on a zebra’s coat seemed to be deterring flies, specifically the horsefly and tsetse fly species, at a horse farm in the United Kingdom. With a group of horses and zebras, they put different colored blankets on them from solid black, solid white, black-and-white zebra-type stripes, or no blanket at all.

With the use of high-resolution cameras that recorded these fluttering flies, they were able to track how often and how many insects landed, and bit, the unsuspecting horses. Scientists were able to conclude with their study that while the stripes did not seem to have any difference from far away, it did, however, make a big impact when it came time for the flies to land.

The flies would just hover over the horses but not actually slow down and land on the horses wearing the striped camouflage. It was as if the flies were confused, disoriented, and just couldn’t figure out where to land!

Imagine trying to fly around and land on a moving object with an irregular pattern of contrasting colors, while you yourself are moving. Seems tricky, doesn’t it? Well, it sure is for flying bugs! “Stripes may dazzle flies in some way once they are close enough to see them with their low-resolution eyes,” according to co-author Martin How, of the University of Bristol.

In the study, the horses wearing the stripes had flies land on them, on average, ¼ of the rate of those that were wearing solid color blankets, or no blankets at all. With over eleven hours of close observation, the flies bit the horses wearing solid colors, or no blankets, 239 times, while the horses in stripes had zero bites within a period of five hours. Just 5 flies landed on horses wearing zebra patterns, with over 60 on the other horses, during a thirty-minute period.

Another fact to consider is that horses and Zebras behave differently and live in different environments. Domesticated horses are often kept on smaller farms, such as in stalls or pastures, where manure piles, or manure in the stalls or fields, may be more concentrated than say wild zebras living out on the grasslands.

Domestic horses tend to have large amounts of flies and insects around them in the warmer months, making the need for extra fly-protection that much more important. As horse owners, we try to do whatever we can to make sure our horses are happy, healthy, and comfortable. Using a Fly Sheet for horses is just another great way to help them out during fly-season.

Other Benefits for Horses Wearing Zebra Fly Sheets

Besides keeping horseflies and other biting insects from biting or landing on your horse, putting a fly sheet on your horse, such as the Dura-Tech® Interlock Mesh Zebra Fly Sheet, can offer many other benefits besides just the zebra pattern deterring flies.

  1. UV-Protection:Our Zebra Fly Sheet offers 80% protection from UV-rays. Using a fly sheet for horses such as this one can help reduce the amount of exposure your horse has to these harmful UV-rays, which is especially beneficial for light colored horses such as greys, palominos, paints, pintos, and buckskin horses. Reducing UV exposure may help prevent the risk of melanoma in some horses, and it can also help reduce your darker colored coats from fading, such as black or dark bay horses.
  2. Sensitive Skin:Some horses have allergies to bug-bites and can have allergic reactions such as hives, sores, losing patches of hair, or becoming so itchy they could risk injuring themselves by trying to scratch up against the fence or buildings. Using a fly sheet for horses, especially one with zebra stripes, can help reduce the number of flies landing on them, and therefore biting them.
  3. Irritation:As we all know, once a horse is so bothered by the bugs and begins running, pacing, pawing, or rolling, they can very quickly get agitated enough to hurt themselves. Some horses will start running, try to jump the fence, or get themselves into a sweaty lather from relentless biting flies. Stomping repeatedly can also cause their shoes to become loose. A fly sheet may reduce their stress from bugs, keeping them happier outside and less prone to becoming stressed and upset.

Will My Horse Be Comfortable in a Fly Sheet?

The 300D soft interlock mesh material used in our Dura-Tech® Interlock Mesh Zebra Fly Sheet is interwoven to keep it strong and durable enough for turnout and light play, while still be soft, flexible, and comfortable for your horse to wear. It will drape nicely across their body, for a close yet breathable fit. The nylon lined shoulders and extended gussets allow horses to move and play freely without worrying about constricting rubs or irritation on their shoulders, while the Euro-fit style fits a wide variety of horse shapes and sizes.

Some horse owners worry about using fly sheets on their horses, unsure if they will be too hot, cause rubs, or shift when a horse rolls. These fly sheets are designed to keep your horse cool with better airflow in the mesh material, while having crisscross surcingles that self-right so the sheet is never off-balance.

While adding fly sheets on horses during the warm summer months may seem counterintuitive, using a zebra striped fly sheet designed to be cool, comfortable, and durable, is a great way to ensure that insects are not landing on your horse so they can be even happier while enjoying their outdoor time this summer!