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Human Lice

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There are three types of lice that infest humans:

  • head louse (Pediculus humanus capitis)
  • body louse (Pediculus humanus corporis)
  • pubic louse (Pthirus pubis)

Lice that are found on the head are different from lice found on the body or pubic area.

Human lice are big enough to see with the naked eye, but a magnifying lens may be helpful in finding them.

The eggs (called nits) are firmly attached at the base of the hair shaft near the scalp. Nits are oval-shaped, very small, and usually yellow to white. Nits located 1/4” or more from the base of the hair have probably hatched and are no longer a threat.


A Closer Look

Known Issues

  • Bites or Stings

Active Seasons

  • Summer
  • Fall
  • Winter
  • Spring

Pest Overview

Lice are parasitic insects that can be found on a person’s scalp and body. Head lice are most common among school-aged children ages 3 – 11. Human lice are found all over the world. 

Human Lice Treatment Options

Human lice cannot survive more than a couple of days without feeding on a human host. Therefore, chemical or heat treatments are generally not recommended except in unusual situations in which human lice may pose special concerns, such as hospital emergency or operating rooms. Please talk with your technician or call Adam’s for additional information.

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More About Human Lice

Lice Prevention

Human lice cannot jump or fly. Usually lice are transferred from one person to another via personal contact; wearing infested clothing such as hats, scarves, coats, or uniforms; using infested combs, brushes, and towels; or lying on a bed, couch, pillow, carpet, or stuffed animal that was very recently used by a person with lice.

Maintaining personal hygiene, avoiding close personal contact, and not sharing clothing can prevent a lice infestation.


  • The most common symptom of any type of lice is itching, which is caused by an allergic reaction to a lice bite.
  • You may also find little red bumps on your head, neck, shoulders, waistline, or pubic area.
  • If you look closely, you can see lice crawling about.
  • It is more likely that you’ll see small white Lice eggs, called “nits” in your hair than adult lice. Louse nits may look like dandruff, but will not move if you brush your hair or try to shake them out.
  • You can also find body lice by looking for eggs and active lice in the seams of clothing.


There are 3 types of human lice:

Head lice (Pediculus humanus capitis)

  • Adult head lice are approximately 1/8” in length; about the size and shape of a sesame seed.
  • Brownish grey or tan in color
  • 6 legs and no wings
  • 2 antennae coming from the head
  • Louse eggs (nits) are about 1/16” and are translucent, white, or yellow-brown
  • Nymphs are 1/16” – 1/8” in length
  • Nymphs are grey or tan colored and look like a small adult louse.

Body lice (Pediculosis humanus corpus)

  • Adult body lice are 1/10” –1/8” in length and similar in appearance to head lice
  • Brownish grey or tan in color
  • 6 legs and no wings
  • 2 antennae coming from the head
  • Body lice nits are small, oval and usually yellow to white in color
  • Nymph looks like an adult body louse, but is about the size of a pinhead.

Pubic lice (Phthirus pubis)

  • Commonly called crab lice because they look like miniature crabs when viewed through a magnifying glass
  • Adult pubic lice are smaller than head lice or body lice; about 1/16”in length
  • Pubic lice are tan to grayish-white in color. 
  • Pubic lice have six legs. Their two front legs are larger than the others and look like the pincher claws of a crab.


  • Generally, lice are not considered a health danger in the United States.
  • Head lice and Pubic (“crab”) lice are not known to transmit any disease.
  • Although no cases are reported in the United States, body lice have spread epidemic typhus, trench fever, and louse-borne relapsing fever in other parts of the world, notably where civil unrest and/or chronic poverty prevent regular laundering of clothing.
  • If you scratch too hard, lice bites can become infected. If infected, your skin will be red, tender, and possibly oozing or crusted over. Call your doctor as soon as possible if any of these conditions exist.


  • Lice are parasites and feed on blood several times a day in order to survive.
  • The amount of blood taken in a single feeding is much less than a mosquito takes – – from 0.0000387 ml to 0.0001579 ml.


  • Lice are very contagious and typically spread through close contact with an affected individual or their personal items.
  • Lice cannot jump or fly.
  • You cannot get human lice from your dog, cat, or other pets. Lice are “species specific,” meaning human lice do not feed on non-humans and the type of lice your pet may get do not feed on humans.
  • Head lice are usually spread by close head-to-head contact or by using an infested person’s hat, comb or hairbrush.
  • Body lice can be spread by storing or sharing your clothing with or wearing clothing that has recently been worn by a person who has body lice. Body lice may also be spread by sleeping in infested bed linens.
  • Pubic lice usually are transferred through sexual contact and are most common on adults. While it is much less common, pubic lice may be spread through wearing an infested person’s clothing or sleeping in bed linens or a sleeping bag that have been recently used by a person who has pubic lice.


  • A louse goes through 3 lifecycle stages: egg (nit), nymph and adult.
  • Female lice lay 6-10 nits per day, which are attached firmly to individual hair strands close to the skin. (A female pubic louse lays 3 nits per day.)
  • Nits hatch within 7-10 days after having been laid.
  • Nits that have not yet hatched are yellow, tan, or brown. Nits that are white or clear have hatched and just the egg shell remains.
  • Once hatched, the louse is what is known as a nymph, or a young louse. Nymphs mature into adult lice in about 9 – 12 days.
  • Adult lice feed 4 – 5 times per day
  • As long as a food source is readily available, an adult louse can live for as long as 30 days on a human. However, Adult Head and pubic lice are highly dependent upon human body warmth and can’t live longer than about 24 hours on nonhuman surfaces like floors, furniture, clothing, headphones, or hair accessories.
  • Body lice are more resilient and can survive if separated from human contact for up to a week without feeding.
  • The complete life cycle of pubic lice is 30-35 days.


  • There is no need to Call Adam’s Pest Control or any other pest management company to exterminate human lice. Simply vacuuming carpets and upholstered furniture will prevent lice from crawling onto a new host; and without a blood meal lice will die within 24 hours.
  • Don’t use more than one head lice medication at a time.
  • Don’t use a hairdryer after applying head lice medication to your scalp. Some treatments for lice contain flammable ingredients. Read and carefully follow the directions on the label.
  • Medicated topical lotions and shampoos to kill Head lice do not typically remove the nits, so your doctor may recommend repeating the treatment in 9 or 10 days to kill any newly-hatched lice.


  • Approximately 10-12 million Americans become infested with lice each year.
  • More than 80% of all schools in the United States will have a lice outbreak this year.
  • More than $350 million is spent annually on lice treatments in the United States.
  • Female lice require only one mating in their lifetime to produce all of their eggs.
  • Lice have been around since cavemen times.
  • Archeologists and paleoanthropologists can use the mitochondrial DNA of female lice to determine migration patterns of ancient humans.