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Updated on 
April 11, 2017

Where Do Head Lice Come From?

When you find head lice, you may ask yourself where do head lice come from? Where do head lice originate? If you’ve only found nits (head lice eggs) you are wondering where do nits come from? Specifically, when considering where your family got their case of head lice it is more difficult to tell because as you go about your daily life, you are exposed to people who may have lice and not even know it. You may never know where your case of lice came from, but it would have started when either a pregnant louse or two live bugs made their way to your head through head-to-head contact with a person who has an active case. If you just have eggs, then there was at one time one pregnant louse on your head.


There are various answers to the question of where did lice come from before humans. Historically, head lice have likely been around for thousands of years; nits have even been discovered on Egyptian mummies. As for their ancient origins, it’s possible they are an offshoot of body lice. This likely happened over 100,000 years ago.

If you are wondering where do lice come from when not on human hosts, it is unlikely that your case of head lice came from something other than head to head contact, but there is a small possibility you may have gotten it from any number of places like a bus seat or trying on clothes at the mall. Most likely you got this case when a live bug or two made their way onto your head after direct head to head contact with an infected person


A short explanation of how lice form is that lice are formed when 2 adult lice of the opposite sex mate. Afterward, the female louse lays eggs on the strands of hair, gluing them firmly about ¼ inch from the scalp with a substance she secretes. Over the course of the next week to ten days, the lice grow in the safety of the eggshell and then hatch. These immature lice, called nymphs, do nothing but mature while feeding off of human blood on the scalp periodically. Once mature, a week to 10 days later, these now adult lice will begin to reproduce. A detailed explanation can be found at LiceDoctors - How Can I Eradicate Bugs and Lice Eggs?


Unlike the eggs of body lice, the nit life cycle of head lice starts as an egg laid by a  louse on a single strand of hair. These nits are glued firmly onto the hair follicle to ensure that they do not fall off. The eggs are tiny, even microscopic when they are first laid, but as they grow and become visible around the second or third day, you can spot them by looking at the base of the strand of hair close to where it attaches to the scalp. The eggs are attached to one side of the hair, are oval, and when removed have a brown or tan-colored appearance. Placing the nit against a white background is the best way to see its brownish color. The bug inside of this egg needs the warmth provided by the human head to survive and eventually hatch.

The reason most treatments fail is that they do not address the eggs that are in the hair. To eradicate a head lice infestation, all of the nits, and we mean every single one of them, have to be removed from the hair to prevent the lice infestation from coming back. To date, there is nothing on the market that will consistently penetrate this eggshell to kill the bug inside. The only one hundred percent effective way to kill them is to manually remove them from the hair by means of diligent combing and/or hand picking. The nit stages are simply laying and hatching which lasts anywhere from six to seven days.


Lice Nymph

The second phase of the life cycle of the louse is when the bug hatches and is referred to as a nymph. During this stage, which lasts approximately 10 days the louse will go through 3 different molting stages.

After the lice hatch on day 6 or 7, they will experience their first molt on day 8 followed by a second molt five days after they hatch, and a third and final molt ten days after hatching. During the first ten days of their life after they hatch, baby lice bugs, or nymphs, cannot reproduce, meaning they cannot lay eggs making an infestation worse. They spend their days close to the scalp, not moving, and nourishing themselves with the blood they derive from the human scalp. During this time, away from the protection of their eggshell, they are vulnerable to suffocating oils and other various treatments. If there is no treatment, the lice will develop and get ready to provide you with a full lice infestation.


The mature adult lice will emerge after the third molting stage around 10 days after they hatch from their eggs. During this phase of their life, the bugs are still potentially vulnerable to pesticides or other lice treatments. We say “potentially” because if you are dealing with “super lice” (which are very prevalent), pesticide treatments will prove to be ineffective. We urge you not to rely on chemicals to get rid of a head lice infestation. Once the bugs reach this stage, they are fully mature, and the male and female louse gain the ability to reproduce.

Both males and females have 3 main parts of their body, the head, the thorax, and the abdomen. They do not have wings or springy legs, which means they lack the ability to jump or fly. Lice are brown, gray, and black which varies depending on how long it has been since their last meal. In addition, lice do not carry viruses, so disease control is not a part of eradicating lice.

You can tell the difference between a male and a female louse by examining their size. Male lice bugs are smaller and have a shorter abdomen than their female counterparts. Sadly, you cannot tell merely by appearance if you are dealing with super lice or not. After mating, a pregnant louse will begin to lay eggs one to two days later. For the next fifteen to sixteen days after the female louse reaches maturity, adult head lice will continue to mate, females will lay eggs, and both will feed off of the human scalp. A louse can lay anywhere from six to ten eggs a day during this period, laying a total of around 100 or more eggs. You can see how quickly you can end up with a head lice infestation. This is the third and final stage of the head lice stages of lice.

You will only find head lice on the head. They are different from body lice and pubic lice which remain on their respective parts of the human host.

Lice Anatomy

When looking at the anatomy of a louse, one can note that it has three distinctive body parts: the head, the abdomen, and the thorax. The head has an antenna, eyes, and mouth. The mouth is shaped like a tube and there are little sharp teeth that bite the scalp to suck human blood for food. The thorax has six short legs with claws that grab human hair so the bug can shimmy to the scalp. At the back of the louse is the abdomen which contains the intestines. Head lice look different from body lice and pubic lice.

Life Span of Head Lice In Humans

where do lice live

From the time they are laid to the time that they die of old age, an individual head louse will live on ahead without treatment for about 30 days. The lice life cycle timeline is as follows: the nit is the first stage of the head louse life cycle timeline, which is 6-7 days. After it hatches, the nymph stage of the cycle begins. It will last roughly 10 days. Once mature, on day 16, the adult louse will remain in this stage, feeding, breeding, and staying warm until it dies around day 30-32.

How Long Can Lice Live Without A Host?

At all stages of their life, head lice need the environment on the human host head to survive. If a louse falls off of the head, it will begin to weaken the longer it goes without feeding and the warm environment it needs to survive. Off of a human host, a louse will die within 24-36 hours. So when we are asked, where do head lice live, the answer is on the head, not in the home.


The eggs lice lay simply do not fall off the strands of hair. If, however, a strand of hair with a nit attached to it becomes separated from the head, the lice egg will likely not even hatch. It needs a warm environment on the head to incubate and survive. In the incredibly rare instance, a baby bug does hatch from a head louse egg that has become separated from the head, it will die soon after.

Life Span of Head Lice on Different Objects

When dealing with head lice, it is important to remember that they live on the head, not in the home or on other objects. Many people have been told that they should clean everything, vacuuming, laundering, and sanitizing surfaces in the house to make sure a lice infestation is gone. However, if you properly treat the head, any head lice present on other objects like hair accessories, hair brushes, bedding, scarves, shirts, etc., will eventually die on their own within about a day. You must kill all of the adult lice, as well as the nymphs, and extract the eggs to end a lice infestation. As for disease control on objects that head lice may have been in contact with, pediculosis does not cause disease so no additional action is necessary.

LiceDoctors Eliminates Lice at All Stages

The life cycle of head lice continues until all of the bugs and nits are removed from the hair. Head lice cases do not go away by themselves. When there is an advanced infestation, it may take longer to get rid of the lice, but your lice specialist will do that. Whether you have one louse or several lice, this case will be gone for good. LiceDoctors offers a safe, all-natural treatment that will leave you lice-free. LiceDoctors technicians can eradicate head lice at all stages of infestation! Call us for same-day service at 800-224-2537.

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