Facts, Identification & Control
Adults are 2 to 4.2 mm long, wingless and flattened. They are whitish to grey in color and have a hooklike claw at the end of their legs.
Behavior, Diet & Habits
Lice are parasites that prey on mammalian and avian orders. There are several species of lice, with only certain species relying on human hosts. Lice that feed on the human body may also be found in the folds and seams of clothing. Because birds can have lice, bird handlers can also be bitten by the lice that bite birds.
Head lice are the most common of human infestations and do not indicate a lack of cleanliness. Lice can be present in short or long hair, though they do require some hair. Human head lice are often found behind the ears or near the hairline, at the base of the neck. Their eggs, known as nits, thus the term “nit-picking,” are attached to a host’s hair with specialized saliva. Nits are white in color and are located near the scalp on individual strands of hair.
Body lice resemble head lice, though they make their homes in clothing rather than on the scalp. They are not as common, since people usually do not wear the same clothing continuously for days at a time or without washing it. Body lice infestations are characterized by severe itchiness and red marks on the body. These bites can result in skin infection. Body lice have been known to transmit diseases.
Reproduction and development vary depending on lice species. Head lice females produce 50 to 100 round eggs which they secure to a person’s scalp. Body lice lay up to 200 eggs which they usually deposit in a person’s clothing.
Signs of a Lice Infestation
Signs of lice may include skin irritations or sightings of small whitish bugs in the clothing or hair. Nits are an important indicator of head lice.
Treating for Lice
Head lice can be removed at home with the use of a nit comb. Body lice can be addressed by thorough body washing. All clothing and bed linens should be washed in hot cycles. Over-the-counter antilice agents are also available, though medical care should be sought if skin or scalp infections develop.