From ‘egg’ to ‘death’ the life cycle of a head louse
Lice Education - Get to know these six legged bugs
What are head lice and what do they look like?
Head lice are six legged, wingless parasitic insect that live on human blood and live strictly on human heads. A head louse is small, but visible to the human eye – approximately the size of a sesame seed. They vary in color, from white to gray to reddish-brown, depending on how mature they are and how recently they have eaten.
Head lice eat nothing but human blood. A head louse penetrates scalp skin with its rasping teeth. Then it inserts its retractable proboscis into a blood vessel, injects a tiny amount of anticoagulants, and feeds much like a mosquito. Lice normally take several blood meals per day, resting between meals to digest its food.
Nits & Reproduction
Nits are the eggs of head lice. Females need to mate only once, then can begin laying viable eggs just 24 hours later. For the rest of her one-month life she may lay up to 300 eggs (three to five eggs twice daily). Head Lice reproduce by laying eggs (nits) on the hair shaft close to the scalp of their host. Nits are oval-shaped, ashy-tan to dark-brown color, and are about 0.8 mm in length – approximately the size of a knot in thread. The eggs hatch in about six to nine days, depending on temperature.
Nymphs - Baby Lice
Under normal conditions, eggs will hatch in eight to eleven days. Newly hatched nymphs or baby lice feed on the blood of their host like adult lice. A Nymph is about the size of a pin head and look similar to an adult louse, but smaller in size. Between each stage, the louse molts in order to shed its exoskeleton or “skin.” During the final nymphal stage, body growth stops and sexual maturation occurs. The Nymph stage lasts about 7 to 12 days, depending on feeding conditions.
Adult head lice are about 1–3 mm long, tan to grayish-white in color. Head lice are wingless, have six legs, one pair of antenna, each with five segments and one pair of eyes. The abdomen consists of seven segments. Males are slightly smaller than females and having a pointed end of the abdomen. The females are characterized by two gonopods in the shape of a W at the end of their abdomen. Adult lice suck human blood to live and survive. They can travel quickly and are really active. The life span of an adult head louse is about 30 days.
The Facts of Lice - What you need to know!
Head Lice Questions?
Where do head lice come from?
They have been around since the beginning of mankind. Nits have even been found on the hair of Egyptian mummies when their tombs were opened.
How does someone get head lice?
Head lice are almost always contracted by head-to-head contact with an infested person, and VERY RARELY spread through belongings and personal items such as hats, backpacks, pillows, etc. That is why communication with those individuals that you've had recent contact with is so important. Lice are attracted to the hormone-causing scent of a human scalp. It is a myth that lice live in bedding and inanimate objects.
When head lice transfer from one head to another, how soon can they start laying eggs?
If the head lice are fertilized females, they may begin laying eggs immediately. Head lice generally travel in harems, often consisting of seven or eight females and one male. As females will lay eight to ten eggs daily, a simple case of head lice can escalate very quickly.
Can I get (or give) head lice from my dog or cat?
No, pets don’t transmit head lice to people, nor can they carry head lice. Head lice are parasites that strictly feed on human blood on the scalp.
What are the signs to look for if my child (or I) have head lice?
You may experience a tickling/crawling sensation or itching on your scalp, particularly around the ears or at the nape of the neck. Head lice feed on human blood and it is the saliva they leave behind after feeding that can cause your head to itch. Not everyone is allergic to the saliva, so you could have head lice and never itch at all. Therefore, look closely at the hair around the ears for a tiny ball-shaped egg that is seemingly glued to the hair shaft. It will have a slight shimmer when under a light.
Can I get head lice more than once?
Unfortunately, yes. Head lice infestations can affect a person an unlimited number of times. Eliminating all live head lice and removing all nits is the first step to a lice-free existence. If any nits remain on the head (and hatch), you still have head lice. Prevention is the best means of avoiding future head lice infestations. Regular head checks, avoiding head-to-head contact and sharing personal items with others, as well as using non-toxic lice repellent products daily are your best defense.
I have heard about super lice. What are they and how are they different from regular head lice?
“Super lice” is the term given to head lice that are resistant to traditional over-the- counter lice treatments (pesticides such as pyrethrin and permethrin). They have genetically mutated over the past 20 years or so, and have become virtually unaffected by head lice treatments. (This is why a removal process is essential).
Do I need to throw away anything or fumigate to get rid of lice in my home?
No, since head lice must have a human host to survive, getting rid of brushes, recently worn clothing, bedding or stuffed animals is not necessary. Fogging and/or spraying insecticide are ineffective and can expose your family unnecessarily to toxins.
Lice Facts or Myths!
MYTH - Only dirty people get head lice.
On the contrary, head lice prefer a clean environment. Head lice infest people from ALL backgrounds and walks of life. Anyone can get head lice, no matter how clean their home or hair is or where they live, go to school, or play. All it takes is head-to-head contact with someone who has head lice.
MYTH - Head lice can live in a mattress or pillowcase for weeks at a time.
Lice cannot live off of a human host. Without blood from the head of their host, lice can only live only 24-48 hours. They can’t survive on your bed sheets, pillow cases, furniture, or other objects in your home, nor can the NITS/eggs reattach to the hair if they manage to fall off the head.
FACT - You DO NOT have to shave your head or cut your hair.
Lice will stay on as close to the scalp as they can making a short cut even more challenging to thoroughly remove the eggs. Nits (eggs) cannot live farther than an inch or two from the scalp. Cutting or shaving your head is not necessary and can negatively impact your child. The only way to effectively eradicate head lice is through a manual removal process.
FACT - Chemical treatments are NOT the best way to remove Lice.
Lice are resistant to chemicals leaving our proven removal process the only reliable method of eradication. In addition, new research has shown that some chemical lice removal treatments can cause damage to children’s brains. At NittyBugs, we use only 100% natural products to help us in the removal of head lice.
MYTH - Lice can jump from head to head.
Although lice are fast as lightning, they can’t jump, hop or fly; they can only crawl, therefore they scurry from one head to the next. It only takes 3 seconds for a louse to transfer from one head to another.
MYTH - Head Lice prefer long hair.
Lice do not care whether hair is short, long, clean or dirty. Lice thrive in hair, period, specifically on the blood they get through the scalp.
FACT - Head lice infestation can become a huge problem if not treated.
They are not like a cold or the flu that go away on their own. They must be manually removed. Without removal of every nit and louse from one’s head, expect re-infestation.
MYTH - Kids are most likely to get head lice in school.
This is a common misconception, probably stemming from the fact that school-age children are at an increased risk for getting head lice. The fact is, kids tend to get head lice from places and activities during the summer months when school is out. Sleep overs, summer camps, day cares, sports, among others.
MYTH – My child has lice, I don’t need to be checked.
Wrong. According to the FDA, each year between 6 and 12 million children in the U.S. are infested with head lice. In many of these households, the lice quickly spread to siblings and parents. You don’t need to feel guilty no matter what you find. You are not alone.
FACT – You need to inform others of your discovery.
Communication and education is key to infestation prevention! Keep quiet and you become more likely to get re-infested.
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