-- Generally not as common as head and pubic lice --
Summary: Body lice tend to occur in crowded and unsanitary conditions where clothes are not regularly washed. Body lice infestations can also spread a disease called epidemic typhus in these situations. Eggs, or nits, of body lice are laid on clothing unlike the related head and pubic lice which attach their eggs to individual hairs.
Body lice identification (how do they differ from head lice)
Body lice are small (1-3 mm; 1/16"-1/8") blood-sucking insects that closely resemble head lice, to which they are related (see What are Head Lice? for a photograph of an adult louse). Body lice, unlike head lice however, live in clothing and lay their eggs (nits) on cloth fibers. Body lice move from clothing to the skin surface to feed. Because body lice eggs are attached to clothing, these lice are generally not a concern where clothes are routinely washed.
Severe outbreaks of body lice, and associated louse-borne diseases, have historically occurred during wars, in prisons, on crowded ships, and under similar crowded and unsanitary situations but are less common today.
Eggs, or nits, of all human lice (head lice, body lice and pubic lice) are about 1 mm long. Nits of body lice are laid in clothing, attached to cloth fibers, whereas head and pubic lice attach their eggs to hairs (see photo above).
Nits need body heat in order to hatch which generally takes seven to ten days. If infested clothes are not worn, body lice eggs won't hatch and may die. Lice molt through several immature stages before becoming adults.
Body lice can be completely controlled with regular washing of clothes in hot water and detergent. There is no need for insecticides. During conditions of war or natural disaster, however, "de-lousing" with insecticides like malathion and DDT has been used to curb outbreaks of typhus and other diseases.
Professional-level pest control supplies are generally not available in home and garden stores but can be found at DoMyOwn, our affiliate.
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