What Do Lice Look Like? (20 Close Up Pictures of Lice)

Curious to know what lice look like up close?

If you start to have an itchy head, then you might be worried about head lice.

...and for good reason!

Head lice are a common problem in the United States with between 6,000,000-12,000,000 cases per year.

Sometimes people can easily tell that they have a problem because all of their hair seems to move, but most individuals have a harder time determining if lice are there because lice tends to resemble other stuff (like dandruff).

If you think you have lice, the information below can help you determine if you have an infestation and what you can do to treat it and prevent a future problem. 

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What Lice Look Like at Each Stage of their life cycle

For those who don't already know, lice is the plural form of louse (some people think they're entirely different things).

A louse is a tiny, bloodsucking parasite which lives on the scalps of humans and feed on people. Each louse is roughly the size of a single sesame seed and ranges in color from white to tan to gray.

When trying to figure out what your lice looks like, remember that there are 3 stages a louse will undergo and they all look different: Nits, Nymphs, and Adult.

what a lice egg looks like

Nits: Nit is another term for a louse egg. Nits are roughly the size of a knot in a strand of hair and are difficult to see. They latch onto hair follicles and can be difficult to remove without proper treatment.

what a lice nymph looks like

Nymphs: Nymphs are the next stage of than adults and look like smaller versions of a full-grown louse. They range from 1-2 mm in length, which is smaller than the size of the tip of your pencil.

what a adult lice looks like

Adult Lice: Lice have six legs with feet like hooks that grip onto single strands of hair. Their "hook grip" allows them to move through your hair easily.

Take a look at the below video to get a sense of how they move and what to look out for.

How Long Do Lice Live?

Thankfully, lice have short lifespans.

An adult louse only lives roughly a month, or 30 days, while on a human head. If the lice fall out or are somehow removed, then they can only last 1-2 days away from the scalp. Nits take roughly 8-9 days to hatch and aren't a problem until the lice emerge.

Lice Reproduction

Lice reproduce quickly and have a lot of young. Each female louse can have between 50-150 nits during their lifetime. This means that a single pair of lice can have 150 children, which can then reproduce as well. Nits are attached to hair using a special, sticky, glue-like substance and are roughly only 1/4 inch away from the scalp.

lice life cycle

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How To Tell If You Have Lice

It should be pretty easy to tell if you or a loved one have a lice infestation. Below are some of the most common signs that a lice problem exists.

  1. You can see movement from the lice on your head.
  2. You start to suffer from an itchy scalp, dandruff, or have dried blood under your hair.
  3. Using a magnifying glass, you can see the lice in your hair.
  4. You find nits on your pillow or brush.

The only way to truly tell if someone has lice is to see the infestation. If you have trouble identifying lice, use a magnifying glass.

You should be able to see small, six-legged bugs moving around close to the scalp. If you have an itchy scalp and flaking without seeing any pests, you might just have dry skin and should consider a dandruff shampoo. 

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20 of The Best Pictures and Images of Lice

1. For the first picture we have eggs cocoons attached to hair follicles as well as an adult louse full of blood!

a louse full of blood and lice eggs attached to hair

2. Here we have a women combing hair with a lice comb under a magnifying glass.

lice in hair on comb

3. This is a picture of one small louse crawling on some white paper.

one louse crawling on paper

4. This is another picture of a person combing lice eggs and nits out of hair. These combs are specially designed to separate the eggs from the hair follicles. 

lice being combed out of hair

5. Here you can see a louse full of blood.

a louse up close full of blood

6. That's not dandruff, that's lice eggs! People with black or dark hair have  much better time of spotting these nasty pests.

lice spread around hair up close

7. Here you can see yet ANOTHER louse with a body full after a blood meal.

lice spread around hair up close

8. Below is a picture of four different lice crawling around in hair magnified to increase visibility. 

lice magnified in hair

9. Below is a pack of lice up close. The ones up near the top appear to have just had a blood meal and look a bit darker.

a bunch of lice up close on white

10. Here you can see someone using a comb to dislodge lice eggs from hair follicles. A comb with extremely fine teeth is really the only tool capable of this job. 

lice being combed out of hair (1)

11. This is an image of one louse crawling on a hair follicle. 

a louse crawling on hair follicle

12. Here you can see images of lice eggs in a man's hair at the base of his scalp.

lice eggs attached to hair near scalp

13. Lice are very small and only with a microscope can you can get a really good picture of their body.

a louse under a microscope

14. Here's another good photo of three lice crawling through hair. Two of them are a bit darker, which means they've probably had a recent blood meal.

three lice moving around hair

15. This is a really good picture of lice eggs attached to hair follicles. Normal lice shampoos are only good to kill adult lice and nymphs but still have no effect on eggs. You need a comb to remove eggs.

lice eggs on hair

16. Here you can see an image of two lice eggs at the base of this person's scalp.

lice at base of scalp

17. Possibly one of our favorite images if this picture of lice eggs, nymphs, and adults at the end of a lice comb. Here you can also see how close the teeth of the comb are together. 

lice eggs, nits, and adults at the tip of a comb

18. Another great image as it gives you a sense of scale. Here you can see adult lice, some nymphs, and a few eggs still attached to these hair follicles. 

nits and lice eggs with adults on hair follicle

19. One of our final images is another adult louse crawling through a bunch of bits of hair. 

one louse crawling through hair
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Lice vs Flea Size Comparison

20. Below is our final image and one of the best we could find that help compare the size of lice and fleas. Both are very small and feed on blood, which makes it difficult to decipher which pest you might be suffering from.

Lice are bit smaller and vastly prefer to live in their host's hair.

lice vs flea size comparison

Closing Thoughts About Lice Pictures...

As I'm sure you've seen by now is that lice are VERY small.

Most of the images above are taken with special cameras capable of zooming in with great focus.

Hopefully now you have a new found appreciation for these little guys and can tell them apart from other common pests (like fleas).

Thankfully, lice are very treatable with over the counter shampoos and equipment. Here's a link to our lice removal guide for reference

Other Lice Guides

Curious about other lice related articles? Check out our other detailed guides to help you deal with your pest problems.

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6 thoughts on “What Do Lice Look Like? (20 Close Up Pictures of Lice)”

  1. I am dealing with an infestation of several different types of lice. I recently had back Surgery and I am sure that they ar in my wound. I shaved all my hair off and the lice is underneath my skin. It is driving me crazy. I have gone to the ER 3 times and they tell me i dont have it. I need help A S A P please. I have tons if pictures.

    • Hey Ms. James!

      That’s sad to hear.

      Lice are a real nuisance but they don’t necessary burrow under your skin.

      This could be a different issue entirely (possibly mites?).

      I know you’ve been to the ER, but I’d have the doctors specifically look at area of your skin where you’re feeling the most irritation.

      Hope this helps!

  2. As I understand it, once lice nymphs hatch from their eggs (nits), they attach themselves to the skin and stay there feeding on human blood until they are mature. One can feel them feeding. This is what most people call an itch, but it is just beneath the surface and feels a bit different from a surface itch. It lasts less than a second, and there may be one, two or three feeds at a time, and then the nymph is satisfied until next feeding time several hours later. Head lice seem to prefer the back of the neck – but the real issue for them is a good blood supply and associated warmth. They seem to prefer to feed when the host (you) are still and relaxed – or perhaps this is when they are more easily noticed.

    There is a lot of “received wisdom” passed down through decades. Some of it is simply stupid, much of it is wrong. I have some doubts as to a real difference between head and body lice. “Received wisdom” refers only to size in distinguishing the two. Children get head lice – that is the only place they have hair – and it is easier to treat head hair. The public area is much more difficult to deal with. Certainly lice will pass between the two. (I am not discussing crabs about which I have no knowledge.)

    Transmission only through close contact is a myth. I got a second bout of lice (pubic first and then head) from getting on a bus full of healthy young holiday workers in Queensland (they stay in cheap digs where lice spread). I sat on an empty double seat for an hour an a half. When I got off I felt a wriggler down under! And so my nightmare with lice started all over again………. The first bout was from traveller accommodation in Thailand. I firmly believe that I am now very attractive to lice (even I can smell something about me at times, though others say they cannot). I have had infestations from several airlines including business class.

    So Ms James, you may well have lice – not different types but at different stages. Unfortunately, despite extensive experience, I have no real advice about how to get rid of them, except through medication (Stromectol). The problem there is that you have to convince a doctor to prescribe it. I have been diagnosed as delusional by several doctors and experts (irksome, especially as I am a university professor and like to think I have all my marbles!). All I can say is that these people should be given lice to learn from experience. Then they might take it more seriously.

    Please let us all know how you are going – our only hope is to learn from each other.


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