Updated on June 25, 2020
By Jacqué Evans
Last autumn my family was fortunate enough to be able to go on a bayou swamp tour in Louisiana. On a gorgeous cool but sunny day we boarded a flat bottomed boat with about a dozen other people and embarked upon a lazy two hour cruise through the cypress and gum trees.
Our guide was a native of the region with a distinctive mixture of southern drawl and Cajun patois. He narrated our journey with various tidbits, factoids and myths associated with the swamps. We learned that a “bayou” is actually a slow moving river while a swamp is a wetland with trees.
It was a glorious perfect day. We saw so many beautiful, exotic, mysterious and even creepy flora and fauna.
- ✓ Alligators – check.
- ✓ Great White Egret – check.
- ✓ Bald Eagles – check.
- ✓ Duckweed – check.
- ✓ Cypress trees – check.
- ✓ Spanish moss – check.
- ✓ Lice – cheeecck…. Wait, what?!??
Yep. You heard that right. Our guide cautioned us that we should not get tooooo close to the ubiquitous beautiful draping moss because it housed – you guessed it, LICE! Now He was charming and this was obviously part of his schtick and patter to wow and awe his tour groups, I also didn’t want to diminish anyone’s enjoyment of their excursion, so I kept my lice expertise to myself. But he was quite wrong. Human head lice need HUMANS to survive, so unless there were some truly squirrelly folks living in the trees, there could not be head lice living in the trees either!
When I got home I had to Google it because I couldn’t imagine what could possibly spawn such a myth. It turns out that chiggers (tiny little red biting bugs that do NOT set up camp and live on human hosts) occasionally live in Spanish Moss and for ages have been misidentified as lice by generations of folks in the southern US. So. For the record. If you should find yourself floating through a swamp, rest assured you cannot get head lice from the beautiful drooping Spanish Moss.
If you do find yourself with head lice from a normal source, like hugs from a loved one, call LiceDoctors in New Orleans and all of Louisiana at 504-521-7573.