Cattle biting louse

(Bovicola bovis)

Cattle biting lice are the most commonly seen species of lice. These lice feed on cells from the surface layers of the skin, dead skin cells and bacteria on the skin surface. If you need glasses to read a phone book, you may also need your glasses to see these lice on cattle.

Often very few males are seen and it has been hypothesised that often reproduction is by parthenogenesis (the females can produce fertile eggs without mating).

Type

Biting louse, chewing mouthparts graze on the surface skin of cattle, they do not suck blood.

Adults

They are small light brown insects with the adults up to 2 mm long with brown transverse stripes on the abdomen and a broad reddish brown head (Figure 1).

Figure 1. Cattle biting louse adult, Bovicola bovis. Image credit Jess Morgan
Figure 1. Cattle biting louse adult, Bovicola bovis. Image credit Jess Morgan

Eggs

The eggs of B. bovis are 0.6 mm - 0.7 mm in length and can be distinguished from those of other cattle lice species by their smaller size and translucent shells. The eggs are pearly white when freshly laid and become pale brown as the embryos develop within.

Location on animal

Cattle biting lice are usually most numerous on the head and in longer hair along the backline, shoulders, neck and rump. In heavy infestations they can be found on most parts of the body.

Life cycle

The incubation period of the eggs of this species is 7-10 days and the complete life cycle from egg to adult takes 25-30 days. Females lay eggs at 24 to 36 hour intervals and the three nymphal stages take between 4 and 9 days each, depending on temperature. Each female commonly lays 30–35 eggs during a 4-6-week period. Adults can survive as long as 9 or 10 weeks.

Control

How and when to treat lice