The sucking lice, of the order Anoplura, are external parasites of humans and other mammals, feeding on blood by means of their piercing-and-sucking mouthparts. The group includes the body lice and head lice, considered varieties of the same species, Pediculus humanus, and the crab, or pubic, louse, Phthirus pubis, named for its crablike appearance. A female sucking louse lays about 300 eggs, or nits, in her lifetime, cementing them to body hairs and underclothing. The larva resembles the adult; the life cycle takes about 16 days. Sucking lice infestations are common in crowded living conditions and where clothing is not changed or washed frequently. Body lice may transmit rickettsial diseases (see rickettsia) and bacterial infections such as relapsing fever; infection results from scratching the crushed louse or its feces into the skin.
The chewing, or biting, lice, of the order Mallophaga, have chewing mouthparts and feed on hair, skin, or feather fragments of the host. They attack birds, rodents, and domesticated animals. Although they do not actually puncture the skin, and thus are scavengers and not true parasites, they often multiply so rapidly that they irritate, weaken, and may even kill the host. The chicken louse, Menopon pallidum, if left uncontrolled, can be a major problem in poultry production. Chewing lice may produce 6 to 12 generations annually. The eggs hatch into rapidly developing young in which metamorphosis is incomplete, as in many parasites.
The book louse is a tiny, wingless, cosmopolitan insect that damages books by feeding on glue, paste, and paper. It resembles lice but is not related, belonging to the order Psocoptera. The aphid is sometimes called plant louse.
Lice are classified in the phylum Arthropoda, class Insecta, orders Anoplura and Mallophaga.
See bulletins of the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture.
Lice (singular: louse), (order Phthiraptera), are an order of over 3,000 species of wingless insects; three of which are classified as human disease agents. They are obligate ectoparasites of every avian and most mammalian orders. They are not found on Monotremes (the platypus and the echidnas or spiny anteaters) and a few eutherian orders, namely the bats (Chiroptera), whales, dolphins and porpoises (Cetacea) and pangolins (Pholidota).
Lice feed on skin (epidermal), sebaceous secretions and blood. A louse's color varies from pale beige to dark grey; however, if feeding on blood, it may become considerably darker. They mostly like clean hair.
A louse's egg is commonly called a nit. Lice attach their eggs to their host's hair with specialized saliva which results in a bond that is very difficult to separate without specialized products. Living lice eggs tend to be pale white. Dead lice eggs are more yellow. Lice are very annoying and are difficult to remove, but not impossible. Lice infestations can be controlled with lice combs, and medicated shampoos or washes.
It has been suggested that the order is contained by the Troctomorpha suborder of Psocoptera. Lice can not jump or fly.
Recent DNA evidence suggests that pubic lice spread to the ancestors of humans approximately 3.3 million years ago from the ancestors of gorillas by sharing the same bed or other communal areas with them, and are more closely related to lice endemic to gorillas than to other lice species infesting humans.