How Animals Use Their Tails to Swish and Swat Away Insects

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Marguerite Matherne, a mechanical engineering Ph.D. student, and Professor David Hu examine the mammal tail simulator used to study the airflow needed to keep mosquitoes from landing. (Credit: John Toon, Georgia Tech)

Marguerite Matherne, a mechanical engineering Ph.D. student, and Professor David Hu, pose with the mammal tail simulator used to study the airflow needed to keep mosquitoes from landing. (Credit: Rob Felt, Georgia Tech)

A horse swats flies with its tail. Georgia Tech researchers have studied how animals such as horses use their tails to generate airflow that keeps mosquitoes away – and swats them if they land. (Credit: Marguerite Matherne, Kasey Cockerill, and Yiyang Zhou, Georgia Tech)

Close-up image shows a mosquito with a horsetail. (Credit: Candler Hobbs, Georgia Tech)

A new study shows how animals use their tails to keep mosquitoes at bay by combining a swish that blows away most of the biting bugs and a swat that kills the ones that get through.