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Body louse - Pediculus humanus_humanus

SynonymsPediculus humanus corporis
In EnglishBody louse

Domain NameEukaryotes - eukaryota
KingdomAnimals - Animalia
A typeArthropods - Arthropoda
ClassInsects – Insecta
OrderLice - Anoplura (Siphunculata)

Human pests; Household insects and mites

A body louse is a type of insect that lives in the folds of a person's underwear and clothes. It is hematophagous at all stages of its development and reproduces bisexually. The life cycle is 16 days, and the adult lifespan ranges from 32 to 46 days.

What does a body louse look like and how is it different from a head louse?

Body lice have an oblong body of a gray-yellow color, 2 to 5 mm long. The abdomen is ribbed, the legs are tenacious, but they cannot grab human hair. They lay their eggs only on human clothing, using a special sticky secretion, which makes them difficult to remove. The shape of the nits is elongated, light in color, up to 0,5 mm long. These lice differ from head and pubic lice in the size and structure of their paws, and their oral apparatus is the same as that of the head parasite. They feed on human blood and do not infect other species.


Body louse lives in the folds of clothing, underwear, bedding and accessories. She temporarily moves to the human body to obtain food, returning back after saturation. An adult requires food every 3-4 hours, which forces it to go hunting several times a day. Her eggs are also found in clothes and linen, located in folds, seams, as well as in the thickness of pillows, blankets and mattresses.

How do they reproduce?

These lice reproduce sexually, provided the microclimate is optimal, preferring temperatures around 30°C with slight deviations. At 15°C the development of nits slows down, and at -10°C they die. Their life cycle is short: males usually live no more than a month, while females live about 45 days and lay approximately 4 eggs daily, for a total of up to 100-140 young organisms in their lifetime. The larvae quickly mature, going through three molts in 8 days, becoming adults capable of actively reproducing and increasing their population several hundred times in a few months.

Feeding features of parasites

Body lice are hematophagous, feeding exclusively on human blood and unable to adapt to another type of food. They, unlike other parasites, are constantly on the human body, moving to the skin only to eat. Their habit of feeding every 3-4 hours forces them to remain close to their owners, and the name "body lice" or "linen lice" reflects their location inside clothing. This also means that they only parasitize those who do not change their clothes frequently, since even a small interruption in blood supply can threaten their survival.

Body lice bites: photos and symptoms

Body lice bites often cause characteristic rashes, spots on the skin, allergic reactions, severe itching, and in some cases can cause ulcers and boils that require 3-4 days to heal. Those affected often suffer from nervous disorders due to continuous itching. Given that lice bites can be dangerous, they can carry typhus and relapsing fever, infections that have claimed many lives in the past. Although these diseases are not as widespread today, they still pose a serious threat.

Why are body lice dangerous?

Body lice bites are painless when the skin is punctured and the blood is sucked out. Insects use a substance that prevents blood clotting and numbs the wound. However, after saturation, the wound begins to itch very much. Even one louse can leave several new bites on the body per day, and as their population grows, the number of bites increases significantly. Body lice bites are accompanied by redness, swelling, swelling, as well as traces of blood on the wound; with a large number of bites, areas of the skin may acquire a blue tint. Parasites are carriers of typhoid fever and other diseases. Body lice infestation requires treatment.

Contrary to popular belief, body lice infestation is not limited only to antisocial people. Although limited access to washing and heat treatment of clothing makes it difficult for such people to get rid of these lice, infestation can occur for other reasons. People can become infected with this type of lice by using the personal belongings of infected people, in crowded places, through direct contact with sick people, when trying on clothes in shops and markets, as well as in public places such as trains, hospitals, kindergartens and health camps . Body lice do not have wings, but are able to move quickly, covering a distance of 50 cm per minute, so infection can occur even with short-term and indirect contact with a carrier of the parasites.

How to get rid of lice

These parasites are often confused with fleas or bedbugs, since the appearance of the bites and other symptoms are similar, but they do not live on the human body. If an infection is suspected, it is necessary to inspect the bed, frequently worn clothing, paying attention to folds and gathers where these parasites may be hiding. If traces are detected, it is necessary to carry out complex treatment, including washing items at high temperatures, using a steamer for upholstered furniture, and treating cabinet furniture with insecticides. Treatment must be comprehensive to prevent lice from moving to other surfaces and to avoid their further reproduction.

Body treatment for body lice infestations includes the use of pediculicides such as spray, lotion or soap. When using diluted in the required proportion or ready-made products, it is necessary to wash the entire body, including the head. One such treatment is enough to eliminate all pests. Skin damage, scratches and ulcers require treatment with antiseptics and wound-healing drugs.

When dealing with lice, it is important to follow safety precautions and not use chemicals in the presence of pregnant or breastfeeding women, or children under 5 years of age. When using special preparations, you must carefully follow the instructions, avoid contact with mucous membranes and inhalation, since in high concentrations they can be toxic.

In general, fighting body lice is easier and faster than fighting head lice. The main emphasis should be on processing all items of clothing, linen and their storage areas. When body lice appear in one of the family members, it is necessary to treat the belongings of all household members.

Prevention of pediculosis

Prevention of lice does not provide an absolute guarantee of protection against them, but helps prevent their rapid development and spread. Timely detection of pests simplifies their control and requires less effort.

It is known that lice cannot tolerate strong odors, so bedding and clothing storage areas can be scented with essential oils or bunches of dried plants. Some of the most effective scents include tea tree, geranium, mint, tansy, and others.

Tansy is a traditional means of combating all types of lice and is quite effective. In case of possible infection, for example, in close contact with people who do not maintain proper cleanliness, you can use bunches of tansy in the apartment or treat things with tansy solution. You can also bathe children in it, taking certain precautions.

After visiting places where there is a risk of infestation with body lice, or contact with lice carriers, it is recommended to treat clothes, wash and iron them. You can also use tar soap for additional protection.

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