Louse Life Cycle

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Both sucking and chewing lice have similar life cycles. The females lay eggs, which are usually white. The female is capable of producing several hundred eggs in a lifetime. These stick to the hair or feathers on the host. Sucking lice feed on blood using their piercing mouth parts. Mammalian chewing lice feed on hair shafts or dermis. The bird lice are also capable of digesting keratin, so can eat feathers.

There is no real metamorphosis. The egg hatches into a nymph, which is essentially a juvenile louse. They are similar to adults, except just smaller.

After three further moults the adults usually fully mature.

A heavy louse infestation is known as pediculosis.

The complete life cycle takes around 2-3 weeks, and the louse generally spend their entire life on the host.

In some species parthenogenesis may also occur.

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Taylor, M.A, Coop, R.L., Wall,R.L. (2007) Veterinary Parasitology Blackwell Publishing

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