Life Cycle of a Head Louse

 

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The Life Cycle of a Head Louse
There are three stages in the lifecycle of a head louse (egg/nit, nymph, adult) and all take place in the hair of their human 'host'. The life cycle takes approximately 30-35 days to complete and during this period the female adult louse can lay lots of eggs. When trying to get rid of a head louse infestation it is important to understand their life cycle as each stage of the life cycle will need targeting. Many remedies and treatments that you can buy over the counter only kill adult lice and nymphs, so the eggs remain. This is the reason that a lot of products come with instructions advising you to complete at least two applications with 8-10 days in between. Any newly hatched eggs are then terminated in the second application.

Life Cycle of a Head LouseEstimated timeframes
Although the timeframes can vary for each stage of the head louse life cycle, the entire life cycle is generally completed in approximately 5 weeks. An estimated overview could be as follows

  • The female head louse lays its eggs, attaches them to the base of the hair shaft
  • After 7 days the louse nymph hatches if the environment/conditions are right
  • The nymph experiences its initial moult 2 days after hatching
  • The nymph experiences its second moult 5 days after hatching
  • The nymph completes its third and final moult after 10 days of hatching and becomes an adult
  • The female and male adult head louse then need to find each other and mate
  • The female lays its initial eggs 2 days after mating
  • The female continues to lay eggs on a daily basis for a further 2 weeks before dying

Life Cycle of a Head Louse Eggs
The eggs are laid, generally close to the scalp at the base of hair shafts. This is for warmth and protection (in warmer climates around the world, eggs can be found inches away from the scalp). The head louse eggs are stuck to the hair with cement-like saliva, so strong that an ordinary shampoo will not dislodge them. It is very difficult to see head louse eggs without parting the hair, having good lighting and even then some may require a magnified glass. They resemble small specs of dandruff and range in colour from whitish yellow to tan. The eggs will hatch and the casing is left stuck in the hair until removed. There are therefore three types of egg - alive (oval with the embryo still in tact), hatched (with a hole at the top) and dead (shrivelled and concaved).

Head Louse Life Cycle

head louse life cycle
 
Life Cycle of a Head Louse Nymphs
Head louse nymphs resemble the adult head louse, but are just smaller. They do not have wings or the ability to hop, but they are born with six legs. The nymphs must also eat a blood meal to enable them to develop and complete three moulting stages before adulthood. The nymphs discard an exoskeleton which can look like a live head louse - however an ordinary shampoo would normally clear these from the hair after a good wash. The head louse nymphs have claws on the end of their legs to allow them to grasp to hairs and cling on. They cannot begin reproducing before reaching adulthood.
 

 

 

Life Cycle of a Head Louse Adulthood
The male adult head louse is a little smaller than the female, although the male adult head louse does have bigger front legs. These are used to hold the female adult whilst mating, as can be seen from the drawing above. It is the male adult head louse that is positioned underneath. The adult head louse has no wings, six legs and ranges in colour from a whitish yellow to a dark reddish brown. It is usually only half a day before adults find a partner and begin mating and the lifecycle is repeated. As female adults are able to lay so many eggs, infestations often occur if the head louse is not detected early on. Please visit our homepage for lots more information!

Thousands of people search to find out about the life cycle of head lice. Fortunately there is plenty of information available on line, so 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 the life cycle of a louse, whether you are looking to learn more, purchase related products or just seek some quiet information. Men, women and children are all affected by the head louse 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 crabs you should seek medical advice so they cannot be spread to/or infect others.

Life Cycle of a Head Louse

What is the Life Cycle of a Head Louse

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