Causes of Body Lice
Body lice is directly caused by an infestation with a small, wingless insect called Pediculus humanus corporis. Anyone who comes in contact with clothing, bedding, or towels of an infested person is at risk for infestation. Another important fact about the causes of body lice is that skin-to-skin contact with someone who already has them also increases the risk that an infestation will be spread.
What Causes Body Lice?
The cause of body lice is an infestation with a specific parasitic insect known as Pediculus humanus corporis. This parasite is more commonly known as body lice -- so both the condition and the parasite that causes it go by the same name.
When a person is infested with lice (whether it is body lice, head lice, or pubic lice), the condition is known as pediculosis.
Understanding Body Lice
A body louse (body lice is plural) is a small, wingless insect. It has three pairs of legs located directly behind the head. The legs end in sharp claws that are designed for feeding and allow the louse to hold on tightly to clothing or hair.
Body lice feed one or more times a day. To feed, they crawl from a person's clothing onto the skin. They then pierce the skin with their sharp claws, injecting irritating saliva and sucking blood. They do not become engorged like ticks, but they do become rust-colored from the ingestion of blood. This rust color is an identifying characteristic of lice.
A female louse lays about six to ten eggs (also known as nits) each day. They reach maturity in about 18 days. Lice eggs are laid in the seams of clothing or on bedding. Occasionally, eggs are attached to body hair. The life cycle of body lice from egg to adult is approximately one month.
Lice found on the hair and head are not body lice; they are head lice. Head lice are caused by an infestation with another parasite (Pediculus humanus capitis).