Horseflies at your picnic? Here’s how to keep them away for ever

Name: Horseflies.

Age: Quite old.

Appearance: Small, dark, sworn enemy of patterns.

Ah, I love patterns. Me too. From your statement, I can deduce that you are not a horsefly.

Why? Well, partly because you are typing half a conversation into a computer with your fingers, using the English language. And because of that thing you said about liking patterns.

Why don’t horseflies like patterns? Researchers at the University of Bristol’s School of Biological Sciences observed that the blood-suckers would eye up horses in striped rugs as often as those in plain rugs, but something about the stripes seemed to disorient them.

Sounds like the fancy rugs were disrupting the radial symmetry of optic flow via the aperture effect. That’s the obvious assumption, yes: that the “barber-pole effect” made the horseflies think the striped surfaces were further away than they were, messing with their ability to land on them.

But that’s the wrong assumption? Indeed. The same researchers discovered that horseflies were equally confounded by horses wearing checked rugs – which do not cause the aperture effect.

This is fascinating. Yes. It means that using a striped or checked blanket could result in fewer horseflies spoiling your waterside picnic. Because, as everyone knows, there is nothing worse than horseflies spoiling your picnic.

Well, there are wasps. What?

Wasps are worse than horseflies. I don’t think so – horsefly bites can be nasty. But whatever you say.

Of course they are worse. Wasps sting people. Are wasps similarly baffled by patterns? I don’t know. They didn’t check.

They didn’t check? Anyway, think of the benefits of this study. The agriculture industry could be transformed. The ability to protect livestock from horseflies in the spring could prevent huge economic production losses.

That isn’t going to help me not get stung at a picnic though, is it? This is a groundbreaking study. If nothing else, it might reinforce the theory that zebras have stripes to ward off horseflies. Don’t you want to know why zebras have stripes?

I couldn’t give a stuff about why zebras have stripes! All I want to know is how to get rid of the swarms of wasps that thwart my every effort to have a nice picnic. I mean, you could always hit them with your shoe.

Hit a wasp with a shoe? What if you miss? You will just enrage it further. There is no creature on God’s Earth more vengeful than a shoe-dodging wasp. Will you shut up about wasps?

Do say: “Horseflies hate patterns.”

Don’t say: “Which is why Liberty is horsefly hell.”


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