Have you ever wondered “How head lice ‘work’?”

by Deborah Wolfson, owner of Lice Ladies Tampa Bay

Have you ever wondered exactly how these pesky little critters do what they do?

Well grab a seat and let’s have a little science fun!!!

Adult head lice have six legs and are wingless insects approximately 2-4 mm long. Their bodies are a translucent grayish-white if they haven’t fed…. and are brown to reddish-brown when they have fed.  Their heads actually have two tiny eyes that are too small to be seen without being magnified.  They also have two small antennae which you normally can see especially on adult lice.  There are six pairs of hooks that surround the mouth.  They use these hooks to attach themselves to the skin of the human scalp for feeding.  Inside a louse’s (yes, a single bug is a louse) mouth, there are two tubes that are like needles.  They are retractable and pierce the scalp.  Once the louse pierces the scalp with the tubes, they inject saliva that contains agents to keep the blood from clotting.  They do this so that they can feed on human blood from the scalp without their “straw” getting clogged up with blood clots.  As they are engorged with human blood, they become a darker brown or reddish-brown color.

We know that head lice need to feed off of human blood every 3-6 hours.  Without a human host, they will starve to death off of a human head within approximately 48 hours.  They can live happily on a human host for around 30 days.  Each female can lay 6-8 eggs per day….so that’s how a small lice army can build up in an infestation so quickly.

During the louse life cycle, nymphs (baby lice) and adult lice deposit their feces in the scalp.  Some children are allergic to the feces or the saliva from the lice bites.  This can cause itching…however not everyone is allergic to these things!  So that means not everyone will itch when infested with human head lice.  For this very reason, we always remind clients to keep up with your weekly maintenance checks that we teach.