Insect guide > Lice


(Suborder Anoplura.)
The true lice are generally referred to in the books as the suborder Parasita. They are all wingless, degraded creatures, possessing to a marked degree the degradational characteristics which result from a parasitic form of life. They have a thin skin the feet are armed with a single long claw, and the mouth-parts consist of a short tube furnished with hooks, from which may be protruded a delicate sucking tube. They are not numerous in species and are all parasitic on warm-blooded animals. The lice which are so commonly found on birds belong to a different group and are structurally quite different from Anoplura. Six genera and about forty species of Anoplura are known. They are found upon many mammalia, even upon those which live in the water. A curious genus, for example, is found upon seals.

The lice of domestic animals and those which are found upon uncleanly individuals of the human race are well known. Three species are found upon human beings in different parts of the world, and are more or less specifically attached to this host. The conditions of modern civilization, however, are gradually causing these insects to become rare, except in the lowest quarters.

The eggs of most species are attached to the hairs of the host animal, and the young lice, after hatching, begin immediately to attack the skin. The rate of growth is not recorded, and the embryological and morphological development of the group is not well known. Here is an opportunity for some enthusiastic student, who can overcome the natural distaste for these disagreeable parasites, to do some good original work. The old Dutch naturalist, Antony van Leeuwenhoek, once started an experimental investigation of Pediculus vestimenti using his own person as the breeding ground, but, beyond the conclusion that the species is very prolific, he reached no results of particular value. Mercurial ointment is a sovereign remedy for the species which attack human beings, while different oily mixtures are used with success on domestic animals.

For more information on headlice and bodylice treatment go to head lice treatment.