The Biology of Head Lice, Part 2
In our last blog (link back to Part 1), we told you a lot about what lice are not and what they can’t do. We know that head lice are not fleas, bed bugs, ants, body lice or ticks, and we know that they don’t like animals, so you can’t blame this one on the dog. In this blog, we’re going to tell you what they can do, how they reproduce and a little about their life cycle. So, grab your nit comb and get ready to get familiar with lice!
- Head lice are bugs that have six legs and a good grip. They grab onto the shaft of your hair and then crawl down to your scalp a few times a day to feed. They don’t fly, hop or swim, but you’re not likely to wash them off. Go for a swim–they don’t mind. They can survive for a few hours. If they happen to fall off in the water, so much the better for you, because they won’t make it without their food source. That goes for separation on dry land, as well.
- Even stronger than their leg grip, though, is the cement-like substance that they use to attach their nits (or eggs) to the shaft of your hair. It’s strong stuff. No louse wants their babies-to-be to go rolling off into space at the shake of a head, right? So, they make sure their kiddies are on to stay. The best way to get them off is with a nit comb. A nit comb, and we suggest using a high-quality, metal comb, have teeth that are very close together. So close that a nit, which is only about 1mm in length, can’t slip through and escape. A patient and persistent nit-picker need not rely on toxic chemicals to rid a kid of lice.
- Lice begin as eggs, or nits. Once they hatch, they’re called nymphs, but like youngling Jedis, they learn the ways of the louse Force quickly, and within a couple of weeks, they are adult head lice.
- As long as there’s a food source readily available (that means you), a louse can live up to 30 days. “Readily available” means that the louse in question is living on you, not in close proximity, like on your couch, but on an actual human. In those 30 days, a female louse can lay multiple eggs per day; so a female louse, undetected, could build quite a little family on your head in a short period of time–and that’s just one.
- If a louse living on a human host can live up to 30 days, how long can a louse without a host live? Not long. A homeless louse will only survive about a day without a food source, so your furniture and carpets are pretty safe. Even if a louse laid eggs in them, nits won’t survive without a host either. They need the warmth a human provides for incubation, so you can say sayonara to any abandoned eggs. A good turn with the vacuum cleaner should be all you need to suck up homeless, dying pests.
Now that you have some facts about what head lice can and can’t do, our best suggestion is to do frequent checks, especially if you have children in school or camps, etc. that come in close contact with other children. Take a peek behind the ears and at the nape of the neck, right at the hairline, first, but don’t be afraid to pick through like a bird preening its feathers. You never know where a head louse will choose to bed down. If you find evidence of one, take a breath and think back on all you’ve learned here. Your home has not been infiltrated and overtaken. Lice are not hiding in droves in your couch cushions reproducing. You need not bomb the house with toxic chemicals or apply noxious shampoos or home remedies to your head. We know lice. They don’t make us twitch or scratch our heads. Brew a pot of coffee and call us. We’ll be there ASAP with our nit combs and our knowledge, and we’ll remind you: Head lice are not fleas, bed bugs, ants, body lice or ticks…