Facts, Identification, & Control

Latin Name

Family Pediculidae


What Do They Look Like?

image of body lice
  • Size: Adult lice are 2 to 4.2 mm long.
  • Color: These insects are whitish to gray in color.
  • Characteristics: They have hooklike claws at the end of their legs, wingless, and have a flattened look.

How Did I Get Lice?

Head lice often transfer between children at schools or daycare facilities and spread to other family members. In homes, body lice are spread through direct contact with a person who has these pests or come in contact from infested:

  • Beds
  • Linen
  • Clothing
  • Towels

How Serious Are Lice?

As with other lice infestations, intense itching leads to scratching and can cause sores and secondary bacterial infections on the skin.

The effect of these parasites on humans depends on the species. Head and body parasite bites can lead to infection, while bird lice cannot survive on humans. They are not transferred to people, but may temporarily bite someone who handles infested birds.

These pests also pose a psychological problem, as their bites cause a tickling sensation and may result in:

  • Anxiety
  • Secondary infection
  • Sleeplessness

Body lice can spread the following:

  • Epidemic typhus
  • Louse-borne relapsing fever
  • Trench fever
  • Vagabond’s disease

Vagabond’s Disease
When body lice infestation are long lasting, heavily bitten areas of the skin can become thickened and darkened, particularly in the mid-section of the body, producing a condition called vagabond’s disease.

Louse-Borne Disease
Although louse-borne (epidemic) typhus is no longer widespread, outbreaks of this disease still may occur from:

  • Civil unrest
  • Chronic poverty
  • Climate
  • Laundering of clothing
  • Natural or man-made disasters
  • Social customs
  • Social upheaval
  • Times of war
  • Unsanitary prisons

Signs of Infestation

Signs of a lice infestation may include:

  • Bugs in clothing or hair
  • Intense itching
  • Rashes
  • Red spots

How Do I Get Rid of Lice?

What You Can Do
Getting rid of head lice can be done 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.

For help with or more info on related pest infestations, give Orkin a call.

Behavior, Diet, & Habits

Lice are parasites that prey on mammalian and avian orders. There are several species, with only some that rely on human hosts. There are three kinds of lice that infest people:

  • Body
  • Crab
  • Head

Head Lice
Head lice are the most common of human infestations and do not indicate a lack of cleanliness. These pests can be present in short or long hair, though they do require some hair. They are often found in the following areas:

  • Base of necks
  • Behind ears
  • Near hairlines

Body Lice
These pests 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. In the United States, actual infestation with body parasites tends to occur only in homeless, transient persons who do not have access to regular bathing and changes of clean clothes.

Bird Lice
Bird lice do not harm humans, but bird handlers may occasionally be bitten.


Reproduction and development vary depending on their species. Head lice eggs, known as nits, thus the term “nit-picking,” are attached to a host’s hair with specialized saliva. Females produce 50 to 100 round, white 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.

Bird Lice

Can Adults Get Lice?

Can You See Lice?

How Long Can Lice Live?

Human Head Lice

Lice Bites