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What Does Head Lice Look Like?

What Does Head Lice Look Like?
Created on 
May 3, 2018
Updated on 
September 24, 2020

If you have ever found a bug on your family member’s head, or near their head for that matter, you know the potential panic and stress that comes with wondering exactly what does a lice bug look like? We can help!

What Does Lice Look Like?

One night I was lying in bed, peacefully minding my own business, when my daughter came in wanting to show me something. What she presented was a tiny dead bug, the color was somewhat light brown but kind of gray and a little translucent. I knew of head lice, but had never had any experience with them. Despite that, I was pretty sure I was looking at a dead louse. So, in denial of what I was afraid my current predicament was, I headed to google and typed my search as many different ways that I could think, hoping to get a different result than what I was seeing: how does lice look; what do lice look like; what do lice look like off the head? Every single time, the result was the same. My daughter had head lice. Maybe you are in the same predicament I was in. 

how what do does head lice bugs nymph eggs nits look like off the hair

In appearance, head lice are quite distinct from other insects that are commonly found around the home. Head lice do not live in the home, so it is rare to find one off of the head. Mature head lice are approximately two to three mm long, which is approximately the size of a sesame seed. They may appear brownish, tan, gray or translucent in color depending on the color of the hair, what life stage they are in, and how long ago it has been since it has fed. Head lice have six legs that have the anatomy needed to give them the ability to hold on tightly to hair. You will be relieved to know that head lice cannot fly as they do not have wings and they cannot jump because they do not have the springy leg anatomy (like that of fleas) to jump from place to place. Head lice are most comfortable near the warmth of the human scalp so they usually attach to, and can be found on, hair near the scalp as they need to be able to feed from the blood. The louse will appear darker after each feeding as it has just ingested blood, which alters its color. Lice have a flattened body, the abdomen being wider than the rest of the body. A female louse is usually larger than her male counterpart.

When looking for head lice, you are less likely to find a bug if the infestation has just begun. Lice tend to camouflage in with the hair, and since they are mobile and move very fast, they are challenging to find. If one is found, the most likely place you will see one would be in the areas behind the ears and along the hairline on the back of the neck. However, they can be found anywhere on the head.

What Do Lice Eggs Look Like? 

what do does lice eggs nits look like

The best way to determine if a family member has head lice during a dry check is to look for nits. What do lice nits look like you ask? The nits are the eggs that a mature female louse lays. Each female louse will lay up to six to ten eggs (nits) a day and can live thirty days before it dies. Each bug can lay around 200 eggs during its life time. 

Are lice and nits the same? No – the nits will one day turn into lice (plural of the word louse) but in this stage they are not mobile and cannot reproduce as they are glued firmly to the individual strands of hair on the head. 

head lice egg nit tiny sesame seed camouflage brown tan

What do nits look like? Nits are oval in shape with a tiny hair like antenna protruding from the small end of they oval and are very tiny. They have a translucent exterior, or shell, and contain a small brownish baby bug, also called a nymph. The outer shell that protects the nymph is impenetrable. Chemical lice products do not pass through the outer shell and therefore are not effective in killing lice. Nits are glued to the hair and do not fall off.

lice egg nit bug nymph hair camouflage

What Does Lice Look Like In Hair? 

One of the reasons lice is often found once the case reaches a moderate level is that lice tend to camouflage in the hair. It does not matter what color the hair is, they tend to take on the color of the hair they are in. So if you are wondering what does lice look like in blonde hair or what does lice look like in dark hair, the answer would be it tends to take on the color of the hair it is in. Once removed, from the hair, it is a different story. One of the best ways to determine if you have a lice infestation is to remove what you are finding from the hair and place it on a white paper towel. What do nits look like on paper towel? They will always appear brownish or tannish in color. Dandruff or DEC plugs are whitish in color, so they will blend right in with the paper towel, unlike lice eggs. 

head lice egg nit on hair strand tiny camouflage brown tan

How To Identify Lice? 

If you are still wondering how to identify lice, here are a few key things that will help you answer some of the common questions or concerns we receive.

do head lice have wings fly nits bugs eggs

Do Lice Have Wings?

Lice never fly and they never jump. So if you have found something that has wings on your family’s head that you have never seen before, and are wondering do lice have wings, the answer is no. 

Can Lice Camouflage?


head lice bugs egg nits camouflage in hair how to tell if you i have

This is one of the reasons why it may be difficult to diagnose a case of head lice early on, and why they have been able to survive throughout the years. However, they are not entirely impervious to detection. With the right knowledge, head lice can be identified and eradicated.

Bugs That Look Like Lice

do other bugs insects things dandruff look like head lice louse nit egg

While head lice do not look like most any other bug that you would find in the household, we often receive questions from clients about what they find in the hair. Over the years we’ve seen pictures of a variety of different insects from anxious parents and families to include ants, beetles, gnats, bed bugs, fleas….and the list goes on. When comparing a picture of a louse with any other bug, it would be difficult to mistake them for anything else.

Help To Identify and Get Rid Of Lice

LiceDoctors is ready to help you identify what you find and will eradicate it if it is head lice in just one visit. To get rid of lice, all nits and bugs must be removed. If your head is not effectively treated the case will continue and will get not get better. LiceDoctors offers a safe, all-natural treatment that will leave you lice-free. Your technician will show you what she finds in your hair and help you know how to identify lice. She will also educate your family on steps that you can take to prevent future lice infestations. Call LiceDoctors at 800-224-2537 to schedule an appointment today for a lice free tomorrow!

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