Bugs That Live In Hair Not Lice – Here’s What They Really Are

Lice are a nightmare of meticulous combing, shampoo, and repeated treatments. It’s enough to make people rethink super long hair, or have kids who go to school and spread it like wildfire. 

Of course, it might not be lice. Lice are the least of your worries when it comes to tiny, flesh-eating, blood-sucking, monsters that cavort amongst your forest of hair follicles. 

  • Botflies: Because social media bots just weren’t enough
  • Chiggers: These little “red bugs” are actually arachnids
  • Bedbugs: Insectile vampires that share your love for relaxing on the bed
  • Scabies Mites: Epidermis miners that lay eggs in under your skin

Botflies, Warble Flies, Gadflies, Or Heel Flies

Regardless of their name, botflies are truly nasty insects when it comes to human or animal infestation. There’s only one kind of botfly that infests a human host and it goes under the scientific name of Dermatobia hominis.

If it sounds like a phobia (intense fear of something), that’s because it should be. The horror stories that emanate from examples of botfly infestations are enough to make those with trypophobia take notice.

Botflies, unlike lice, aren’t satisfied with just surface operations where the ultimate goal is to survive on human or animal blood. In order for botflies to reproduce, they have to burrow underneath the outer layer of the epidermis (skin), where they are comfortable laying their eggs.

The female botfly is capable of laying up to 300 eggs. Those eggs inevitably hatch into larvae and at this stage of their life cycle, extend a thin, membranous tube up through the layer of skin, to the air outside. 

The larvae use this tube to breathe. So at this stage, a human or animal could have hundreds of larvae buried beneath the skin, breathing through their own, self-made ventilation ports. 

How To Get Rid Of Them

There are several methods for getting rid of botflies. None of them sounds particularly appetizing.

  • After applying a local anesthetic, forceps are used to pull the larvae out
  • Antiparasitic avermectin, taken orally, forces the larvae up and out of the skin
  • Suffocate the larvae with vaseline or nail polish, then pulling its dead body out with forceps
  • Use strong, sticky tape and apply it to the area. It will stick to the breathing tubes and jerk the larvae out of the skin when the tape is removed
  • Forcing larvae out with lateral pressure, like popping a pimple

It’s enough to turn the strongest into the squeamish and a far cry from the methods for removing lice. 

Chiggers, Red Bugs, Harvest Mites, Or Mower’s Mites

Chiggers are truly phenomenal in their capacity to create an overwhelming itch. If you like taking forest strolls, walking through tall grass, or just have to get the lawn mowing done on the weekend, you’re likely to encounter these viciously annoying bugs.

The interesting thing about chiggers, is they aren’t really bugs at all, but arachnids. That’s right, chiggers are much more closely associated with the black widow than a common louse. Like their cousins, the tick, chiggers go where there is ample cover.

That means they target your hair, waistline, groin, and armpits. Chiggers are a particularly nasty sort of arachnid. From a normal, eye-view perspective, all you see is the fiercely red, itchy spots they create.

Under a high-end magnifying glass, it’s a horror movie.

Chiggers go right to work, tunnelling into your skin with sharp claws until they’ve dug a nice, cosy pit. When they’re done, they spit in it, as if churning a gaping hole in your flesh wasn’t enough. 

The spit essentially liquifies your skin cells, turning it into a scrumptious slurpy for the chigger to consume.  

How To Get Rid Of Them

Getting rid of chiggers isn’t as meticulous and “step-by-step” as getting rid of lice, but there are similarities. 

  • Start with a hot shower, scrubbing every inch of your skin with hot, soapy water
  • Wash all of your clothing and any clothing, towels, rags, or bed sheets that come into contact with your clothing
  • Apply anti-itch ointment to the infected areas (hydrocortisone or something similar)
  • Take an antihistamine

Chiggers can create extremely itchy, red areas all over the body, but predominately prefer hair and less conspicuous areas of your body. Be sure to check them all thoroughly.

Bedbugs, Redcoats, Chinches, or Mahogany Flats

Bedbugs attack the skin in much the same way as mosquitoes, by inserting a mouth tube through the epidermis, dermis, and subcutaneous layer so they can fat-face your blood supply until they’re so completely engorged that they have to crawl away until they’re ready for round 2. 

Bed bugs don’t get their names from the way they attack your skin but from one of their favorite residences, the bed mattress. It gives them easy access to their favorite food fetish (humans) while offering protection and concealment. 

They also have very flat bodies, like a cockroach, that enables them to crawl into the tiniest of spaces where they can propagate and have a housewarming party by happily gorging on your red blood cells. 

Female bedbugs lay hundreds of eggs, extending their population quickly and efficiently. Bedbug nymphs require human feasting prior to each skin shedding and they’ll shed their skin five times before reaching full maturity. 

Under optimal conditions—meaning there’s a good hiding spot and plenty of you to pass around the dinner table—bedbugs can breed roughly three to four generations of fresh, hungry bedbugs per year

How To Get Rid Of Them

First, you have to attack their home and hearth, the bed mattress, box springs, thick covers, or pillows. When it’s all said and done, take a long hot shower, heavy on the soap.

  • Every single item that’s stuffed or thicker than a bed sheet needs to be washed in hot water 
  • Destroy their mattress civilization by steam cleaning them into oblivion before disinfecting the surface 
  • Enclose the mattress with a plastic covering for an entire year 
  • Get rid of clutter around the house but especially around their predominate location

As much as they love your blood, they can live on it for an entire year without refeeding. Enclosing your mattress will deprive them of their freedom and food supply for 365 days. Like lice, you should do a whole home treatment

Scabies Mites, Sarcoptes Scabiei, And The Seven Year Itch

Like botflies, the Sarcoptes scabiei love to burrow under your skin’s layers to lay their eggs, stay warm and multiply.

Unfortunately, you’re not likely to know about it for a month to a month and a half.

For some illogical reason, the human skin doesn’t react to a full-scale invasion of scabies mites until well after the infestation has begun, and all of their little babies are nestled comfortably below the skin’s surface.

When the skin does wake up and realize that something is horribly wrong, you’re likely to experience a few pimples here or there, or a spot or two that seriously itch.

The difference between scabies symptoms and regular pimples, however, is the horrible, relentless itch.

Female mites will burrow little tunnels just beneath the skin, creating a sort of ridge along the skin’s surface, before laying up to 25 eggs. Ultimately, the intense level of non-stop scratching will cause impetigo, which is a severe skin infection.

This is all caused by only a handful of the mites. Large-scale infections from scabies mites—in the order of thousands—is a rare occurrence that typically only affects the elderly or anyone who has a weak or weakened immune system.

Called “Crusted Scabies,” this version of scabies is the same exact mite, only numbering in the thousands, happily running amok in reproductive bliss on a body that lacks the immune response necessary to repel it. 

How To Get Rid Of Them

Unfortunately, there’s no over-the-counter or homemade remedy for these nearly microscopic monsters. You’ll have to be diagnosed at the doctor’s office—which usually involves a visual inspection, a skin scraping, or a careful observance of symptoms.

  • Rx lotion that you basically have to bathe in, covering your entire body to include the toes
  • Rinse it off after 10 to 14 hours
  • Take antihistamine pills
  • Use hydrocortisone cream only on the itchy spots (not when covered in the Rx cream)
  • Everyone who has been in contact with you has to be treated as well

Scabies is incredibly infectious and is easily passed through skin-to-skin contact.

Infections are predominately in daycare centers, nursing homes, prison facilities, and in sexually active adults as if the standard gamut of STDs weren’t enough. 

All Things Considered

Lice are annoying, itchy, and difficult to get rid of, however, they’re really on the lower scale when it comes to bug and arachnid infestations. Lice separate themselves by their resiliency. The other bugs on this list separate themselves by their disgusting living arrangements. 

So while combing lice nits out of your hair for the umpteenth time might seem exasperating, be thankful that lice aren’t capable of burrowing under your skin before laying hundreds of eggs, vomiting their spit into freshly burrowed holes, or requiring forceps to remove.

Alright, that’s it for this article, here are a few hand-selected articles that you might also find interesting reads:

I’ve seen one flea; should I be worried?


Tiny brown bugs in bed – Everything you need to know!

Steve Foster

Mad about bugs and wanting to publish as many articles as I can to help educate people about these amazing beautiful creatures! For more info check out my about page https://schoolofbugs.com/about-steve-foster/

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