Does Head Odor Lead to Lice Infestations?

Human head lice, also called Pediculus humanus capitis, are parasites that infest human heads. They require the humid temperature generated by the warmth of our body, and human blood for survival. As such, once separated from the host, these pests can’t survive for more than 24 hours. But have you ever wondered why lice keep coming back, despite being eliminated? New research conducted on lice suggests that head lice adhere to a strict selection behavior when it comes to identifying the host. The study suggests that head lice can orient themselves toward the head odor of the human host for survival. Let’s take a deeper look at how this works.

What was the research about?

Previous studies suggested that lice possess fewer genes for smell and taste, and even less for seeing—making it difficult for their mobility. This is why lice focus on one human host to make do with their limited environmental cues. So how do lice find their way back oncedislodged from the host? An article published in the journal of Medical Entomology experimented and found that human odor enables lice tofind the host again.

The experiment

An experiment was conducted by obtaining head lice from children. These insects were stored in optimal conditions to ensure their survival in the laboratory. 30 head lice were introduced to 300 adults each, to allow the lice to familiarize themselves with the head odor of the host. Samples of odors from different parts of these adults were also taken, including samples from the head, forearm, and foot. The lice were removed from the human head and released in a vial where samples of all three odors were placed. To keep the experiment random and to minimize errors, the position of the odor samples was also switched frequently.

The results

Head lice showed a significant preference to head odor when placed amidst volatile compounds of human odor. This was established by recording the highest percentage of time spent by lice in each experimental zone, which was laced with three separate odors. The research concluded that head lice are not only able to determine the odor of a human body from other odors but also differentiate between the odors of the head from other parts of the body. Furthermore, it was also noted that lice perform better once in the vicinity of head odor. So if you ever wondered how lice couldcrawl back up your spine despite being unable to see properly, it’s because they can channel their sense of smell to find a host again. Worried about lice infestations? Don’t be because the Lice Troopers clinic in New York has got you covered! Our lice removal salon uses non-toxic and pesticide free methods to eradicate these pests from your head in just a single session. So get in touch with us and call us at 800-403-5423!