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What are Headlice and Nits?

Head louse Latin name:  Pediculus humanus capitis

Head lice are very small parasitic wingless insects that live on the scalp of human beings. They have six legs, each with strong claws to hold tightly to the hair or scalp. Head lice are hatch about  1/32” (1mm) in length and grow to an adult 1/8” (4 millimetres) in length.  Head lice range from near transparent white to dark brown.

The natural habitat of head lice is the human head. Here the head lice find warmth, food and shelter and a place to reproduce.

Head lice feed by sucking blood from the scalp of humans. Head lice are called parasites because they live and feed on humans and cause them harm.  

In order to feed, head lice pierce the scalp with specially adapted mouthparts and suck the blood. The head lice inject saliva to keep blood from clotting.

Head lice lay eggs called Nits.  The Nit eggs are yellowish white and oval-shaped.  Nits are attached to the shafts of the hair close to the scalp so they are kept warm in order to incubate.

Female head lice attach the nits to the hair shafts with a strong glue-like secretion.

Hatched empty nit eggs remain attached to the hair shaft. The hatched nit egg is white and near translucent.

Since nits cannot move, humans actually catch head lice and not nits.