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You are here: Front page Biology How Head Lice live How do head lice eat?
How do head lice eat?
When the head louse needs food, it moves around very close to the skin and checks it out until it finds a suitable vein. The louse then pierces the skin with its mouth parts and adds saliva to the wound, to prevent the blood from clotting while the louse eats. The blood is ingested via two small pumps in the head of the louse. As the louse is partly transparent, you can actually see a thin thread of blood running from its mouth as it is pumped through the head and on into the intestine.

Unlike body lice, head lice need food relatively often, thus they never leave their hosts. How often they need blood is not fully known. We do know, however, that head lice which feed only four times in 24 hours will die after a few days. Therefore, the lice probably have to eat at least six times in 24 hours in order to survive.
  Body lice suck blood in the same way as head lice. In this video of blood-sucking body lice you can easily see that the blood is being pumped through the heads of the lice. (Department of Medical Entomology, National Institute of Infectious Diseases, Japan)
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