louse

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Related to body louse: head louse, Bed bugs

louse

louse, common name for members of either of two distinct orders of wingless, parasitic, disease-carrying insects. Lice of both groups are small and flattened with short legs adapted for clinging to the host.

The sucking lice, of the order Anoplura, are external parasites of humans and other mammals, feeding on blood by means of their piercing-and-sucking mouthparts. The group includes the body lice and head lice, considered varieties of the same species, Pediculus humanus, and the crab, or pubic, louse, Phthirus pubis, named for its crablike appearance. A female sucking louse lays about 300 eggs, or nits, in her lifetime, cementing them to body hairs and underclothing. The larva resembles the adult; the life cycle takes about 16 days. Sucking lice infestations are common in crowded living conditions and where clothing is not changed or washed frequently. Body lice may transmit rickettsial diseases (see rickettsia) and bacterial infections such as relapsing fever; infection results from scratching the crushed louse or its feces into the skin.

The chewing, or biting, lice, of the order Mallophaga, have chewing mouthparts and feed on hair, skin, or feather fragments of the host. They attack birds, rodents, and domesticated animals. Although they do not actually puncture the skin, and thus are scavengers and not true parasites, they often multiply so rapidly that they irritate, weaken, and may even kill the host. The chicken louse, Menopon pallidum, if left uncontrolled, can be a major problem in poultry production. Chewing lice may produce 6 to 12 generations annually. The eggs hatch into rapidly developing young in which metamorphosis is incomplete, as in many parasites.

The book louse is a tiny, wingless, cosmopolitan insect that damages books by feeding on glue, paste, and paper. It resembles lice but is not related, belonging to the order Psocoptera. The aphid is sometimes called plant louse.

Lice are classified in the phylum Arthropoda, class Insecta, orders Anoplura and Mallophaga.

Bibliography

See bulletins of the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture.

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louse

[lau̇s]
(invertebrate zoology)
The common name for the apterous ectoparasites composing the orders Anoplura and Mallophaga.
McGraw-Hill Dictionary of Scientific & Technical Terms, 6E, Copyright © 2003 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.

louse

1. any wingless bloodsucking insect of the order Anoplura: includes Pediculus capitis (head louse), Pediculus corporis (body louse), and the crab louse, all of which infest man
2. biting or bird louse any wingless insect of the order Mallophaga, such as the chicken louse: external parasites of birds and mammals with biting mouthparts
3. any of various similar but unrelated insects, such as the plant louse and book louse
Collins Discovery Encyclopedia, 1st edition © HarperCollins Publishers 2005
References in periodicals archive ?
The tiny, blood-sucking body louse Pediculus humanus humanus L.
Epidemic typhus is caused by bacteria (Rickettsia prowazekii) that infect the alimentary tract of the body louse. Since the louse's bite causes intense itching, it often is crushed while feeding, which enables the bacteria to move into the bloodstream.
The body louse, contrary to popular belief, does not live on the body.
The body louse, by biting someone with typhus and then biting someone without it, spread the disease.
We compared the cytb sequences obtained in our study with known head and body louse sequences from the 5 P.
The insect has been an unwelcome companion to humans probably from the beginning, as have its close relatives, the body louse and the public or crab louse (see accompanying article page 4).
recurrentis and transmitted by the human body louse (Pediculus humanus).
Although generally despised, the blood-sucking human body louse, Pediculus humanus, has gained newfound popularity among scientists for a surprising genetic feature.
In the study conducted on wild wood mice, Janette Bradley and her colleagues have found that body louse reduced the readiness of the innate system to mount an immune response.
Fortunately, the body louse is relatively rare in this country.
In nature, the only relevant vector is the body louse, which feeds only on humans; no other reservoir for this infection is known (1,3).
The human body louse (Pediculus humanus humanus) has played a key historical role in the transmission of diseases such as trench fever, epidemic typhus, and louse-borne relapsing fever (1,2).