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  (booklice, barklice)

      beetles, wasps, flies, butterflies, and allies

     

In human culture

In social history

Middle Ages, they were essentially ubiquitous. At the death of Thomas Becket, Archbishop of Canterbury in 1170, it was recorded that "The vermin boiled over like water in a simmering cauldron, and the onlookers burst into alternate weeping and laughing".[32] A mediaeval treatment for lice was an ointment made from pork grease, incense, lead, and aloe.[33]

Robert Hooke's 1667 book, Micrographia: or some physiological descriptions of minute bodies made by magnifying glasses with observations and Inquiries thereupon, illustrated a human louse, drawn as seen down an early microscope.[34]

Margaret Cavendish's satirical The Description of a New World, Called The Blazing-World (1668) has "Lice-men" as "mathematicians", investigating nature by trying to weigh the air like the real scientist Robert Boyle.[35][36]

In 1935 the Harvard medical researcher Hans Zinsser wrote the book Rats, Lice and History, alleging that both body and head lice transmit typhus between humans.[37] Despite

Robert Hooke's 1667 book, Micrographia: or some physiological descriptions of minute bodies made by magnifying glasses with observations and Inquiries thereupon, illustrated a human louse, drawn as seen down an early microscope.[34]

Margaret Cavendish's satirical The Description of a New World, Called The Blazing-World (1668) has "Lice-men" as "mathematicians", investigating nature by trying to weigh the air like the real scientist Robert Boyle.[35][36]

In 1935 the Harvard medical researcher Hans Zinsser wrote the book Rats, Lice and History, alleging that both body and head lice transmit typhus between humans.[37] Despite this, the modern view is that only the body louse can transmit the disease.[38]

Soldiers in the trenches of the First World War suffered severely from lice, and the typhus they carried. The Germans boasted that they had lice under effective control, but themselves suffered badly from lice in the Second World War on the Eastern Front, especially in the Battle of Stalingrad. "Delousing" became a euphemism for the extermination of Jews in concentration camps such as Auschwitz under the Nazi regime.[39]

In the psychiatric disorder delusional parasitosis, patients express a persistent irrational fear of animals such as lice and mites, imagining that they are continually infested and complaining of itching, with "an unshakable false belief that live organisms are present in the skin".[40]

In science

The human body louse Pediculus humanus humanus has (2010) the smallest insect genome known.[41] This louse can transmit certain diseases while the human head louse (P. h. capitis), to which it is closely related, cannot. With their simple life history and small genomes, the pair make ideal model organisms to study the molecular mechanisms behind the transmission of pathogens and vector competence.

In the psychiatric disorder delusional parasitosis, patients express a persistent irrational fear of animals such as lice and mites, imagining that they are continually infested and complaining of itching, with "an unshakable false belief that live organisms are present in the skin".[40]

The human body louse Pediculus humanus humanus has (2010) the smallest insect genome known.[41] This louse can transmit certain diseases while the human head louse (P. h. capitis), to which it is closely related, cannot. With their simple life history and small genomes, the pair make ideal model organisms to study the molecular mechanisms behind the transmission of pathogens and vector competence.[42]

In lite

James Joyce's 1939 book Finnegans Wake has the character Shem the Penman infested with "foxtrotting fleas, the lieabed lice, ... bats in his belfry".[45]

Clifford E. Trafzer's A Chemehuevi Song: The Resilience of a Southern Paiute Tribe retells the story of Sinawavi (Coyote)'s love for Poowavi (Louse). Her eggs are sealed in a basket woven by her mother, who gives it to Coyote, instructing him not to open it before he reaches home. Hearing voices coming from it, however, Coyote opens the basket and the people, the world's first human beings, pour out of it in all directions.[46]

The Irish songwriter John Lyons (b. 1934) wrote the popular[47] song The Kilkenny Louse House. The song contains the lines "Well we went up the stairs and we put out the light, Sure in less than five minutes, I had to show fight. For the fleas and the bugs they collected to march, And over me stomach they formed a great arch". It has been recorded by Christie Purcell (1952), Mary Delaney on From Puck to Appleby (2003), and the Dubliners on Double Dubliners (1972) among others.Chemehuevi Song: The Resilience of a Southern Paiute Tribe retells the story of Sinawavi (Coyote)'s love for Poowavi (Louse). Her eggs are sealed in a basket woven by her mother, who gives it to Coyote, instructing him not to open it before he reaches home. Hearing voices coming from it, however, Coyote opens the basket and the people, the world's first human beings, pour out of it in all directions.[46]

The Irish songwriter John Lyons (b. 1934) wrote the popular[47] song The Kilkenny Louse House. The song contains the lines "Well we went up the stairs and we put out the light, Sure in less than five minutes, I had to show fight. For the fleas and the bugs they collected to march, And over me stomach they formed a great arch". It has been recorded by Christie Purcell (1952), Mary Delaney on From Puck to Appleby (2003), and the Dubliners on Double Dubliners (1972) among others.[47][48]

Robert Burns dedicated a poem to the louse, inspired by witnessing one on a lady's bonnet in church: "Ye ugly, creepin, blastid wonner, Detested, shunn'd, by saint and sinner, How dare ye set your fit upon her, sae fine lady! Gae somewhere else, and seek your dinner on some poor body." John Milton in Paradise Lost mentioned the biblical plague of lice visited upon pharaoh: "Frogs, lice, and flies must all his palace fill with loathed intrusion, and filled all the land." John Ray recorded a Scottish proverb, "Gie a beggar a bed and he'll repay you with a Louse." In Shakespeare's Troilus and Cressida, Thersites compares Menelaus, brother of Agamemnon, to a louse: "Ask me not what I would be, if I were not Thersites; for I care not to be the louse of a lazar, so I were not Menelaus."[49]