Biting and Chewing Lice


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Biting Lice (also known as chewing lice) are small ectoparasites that live and feed on a whole host of birds and some mammals. They feed on the scab tissue, dry scales, skin and feathers of many different birds and if the skin is punctured, through scratching or infection, some Biting Lice also feed on the blood of their host (such as the Menacanthus stramineus). Biting Lice have special adapted mouthparts made for chewing, which causes great discomfort and irritability to the 'host'. To alleviate the discomfort, birds scratch themselves and unfortunately open the wounds to further infection.

Biting Lice
are very small in size (2-3m) and are unable to fly (wingless) or jump/hop. They do have six legs though and these allow them to crawl and scurry through the feathers and on the skin of their hosts. 'Mallophaga' is the scientific classification (Order) for Biting Lice and covers many species of biting louse (approximately 3000) making it the larger of the two traditional lice (sucking lice being the other). Mallophaga can then be separated into a further three suborders: AmbLicera, Ischnocera and Rhyncophthirina.

The AmbLicera Biting Lice are classed as the most primitive, as they do not permanently attach themselves to their hosts, unlike most others. These Biting Lice feed by biting and chewing softer parts of the skin and once punctured, they will feed on the host's blood also. Compared with the other two suborders of Mallophaga they are the least host-specific. Some of the common AmbLicera Biting Lice that are parasitic on birds include Menecanthus stramineus (body louse of poultry), Holomenopon leucoxanthum (cause wet feathers of ducts), Menopon phaeostomum (found on peacocks), Trinoton anserinum (found on swans and ducks) and the Menopon gallinae (known as the shaft louse - found on poultry). Some common species that are parasitic on mammals include Gliricola porcelli, Gyropus ovalis and Trimenopon hispidium (found on guinea-pigs), Heterodoxus longitarsus and Heterodoxus macrpus (found on kangaroos and wallabies) and Heterodoxus spiniger (found on dogs in hot countries).

Lice Bites and Treatment

lice bites
Ischnocera & Rhyncophthirina
The Ischnocera Biting Lice are largely found on birds but include a large species that can also be found on mammals called Trichodectidae. They have evolved over time and have an elongated body to help hide themselves between feather shafts, as well as avoid being knocked off whilst in flight or when the host is cleaning itself ('preening'). The Rhyncophthirina Biting Lice are parasitic on two mammals - warthogs and elephants. Both the Haematomyzus elephantis (elephant louse) and the H hopkinsi (warthog louse) have a special tubular rostrum which allows them to drill through the thick skin and feed off their host's blood.



Treat with animal-specific pesticides
Biting Lice do not commonly spread disease; however severe infestations are a real nuisance for poultry farmers. The presence of Biting Lice on birds can lead them to produce fewer eggs, ill health, sleep deprivation (due to biting and itching during the night), not feed properly (weight loss) and even death. It is unlikely that Biting Lice will cause fatalities if the birds are treated in a prompt and efficient manner with the appropriate pesticide. If your animal or pet is suffering from Biting Lice, find an animal-specific insecticide and apply, following the directions on the product. These can usually be found in liquid sprays, powders and dusts.

Chewing Lice - A useful guide
Thousands of people search to find out about different types of parasites and how to get rid of them. Fortunately there are so many products available on line, you should be able to find what you want without too much of a problem. We hope that you have found this article a useful guide and that any questions you may have had have been answered. You will find that this website is a great resource, including this article on Biting Lice, whether you are looking to learn more, purchase lice related products or just seek some quiet information. Men, women and children are all affected by these parasites and we hope you have located the treatment you may need, be it a comb, lotion, cream, medication or shampoo. Treatments and remedies should be sought after quickly and if you have pubic-lice you should seek medical advice so they aren't spread to others.

Chewing Lice

What are Biting Lice?

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