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What Color Are Head Lice?

Head lice are something no one wants to spot, whether it’s a parent finding them on top their children’s head or any adult spotting the tell-tale crawling insects while brushing their hair in the morning. Head lice are an infestation of wingless insects that live on the scalp and in the hair, and live exclusively on human blood. They are notoriously easy to spread from person to person, since they can live off the human scalp for up to 48 hours, allowing for transfer onto furniture, clothing, and more.



Color of Head Lice

 

Head lice have three different stages, each with their a distinct color that can help you identify various characteristics, such as whether or not they have recently fed or whether or not eggs have yet hatched.

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Lice which are in the egg life stage, more commonly known as “nits,” are either brown, tan or yellow in color before they are hatched. Once the eggs have hatched and the baby lice have left the egg, it turns white or almost clear in color. These post-hatched eggs greatly resemble regular dandruff, except they are sticky and difficult to remove from hair strands. Once lice have hatched from their eggs, they are considered nymphs.

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Lice in the nymph life stages, or the “baby” stages, are light tan or gray-white in color. They greatly resemble adult lice in most respects, but they have a much smaller body size. Nymph lice go through 3 different stages, during which time they grow into adult lice.

 

Lice in the adult stage are also tan or gray-white in color; some adult lice are fairly translucent, which results in a more reddish hue once their abdomen is filled with blood. You may be able to tell whether or not a louse on your head has recently fed on your blood by its color; the redder the louse, the more recently it has eaten.

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Using Color to Identify Lice

 

There are three different species of lice that can live off the human body: head lice, body lice, and crab lice. One of the fastest ways to differentiate between the three species is by color. Head lice are the aforementioned light tan or gray-white color; body lice are reddish-brown or lighter cream in color; and crab lice are light gray in color but they may appear more red if they have recently fed on blood. Crab lice may also be quickly identified by their appearance under a microscope, as they are nearly round in appearance when compared to the more oval shape of head and body lice.

hatched lice eggs

Spotting Head Lice

 

Head lice cause a variety of symptoms, including itchiness, red bumps and possibly sores on the scalp, trouble sleeping, and tell-tale white hatched lice eggs attached to individual hair follicles. You will often see head lice walking around on the scalp and in the hair, especially if the infestation has been going on for several days or longer. Once you have diagnosed head lice, you need to act promptly to ensure the infestation is stopped.