How Do Lice Move? Fly, Crawl, Jump, Swim or Walk

Whether it’s an itchy scalp, school outbreak, or general curiosity, something’s got you wondering: How do lice move? Whatever the reason, we’ve got you covered because today we’re going to get into the nitty-gritty on lice and nits (eggs)! In particular How Lice Move Around!

After learning the way lice move, perhaps you’ll find a little comfort in understanding their limitations, or, you might just start wearing a swim cap. Either way, we’ve done our best to answer the most common questions likely to be asked about how lice end up traveling from one person to another. But first, let’s answer your number one question:

How do lice move? lice have 6 legs and each leg is fitted with a claw like tip. They move their legs forward and backward and as they do, their little claw tips serve as walking sticks to help them navigate through hair, skin or clothing fibers.

Lice have 6 legs, each leg has a “grabber”

Lice and Sense of Direction

Some research has shown that head lice do have an understanding and sense of gravity. Since most lice attach to a human somewhere below the head, lice must then use their antenna and their sense of gravity, and begin moving toward a person’s head (against gravity).

That same study also concluded that lice, without a doubt, were able to use the direction of arm hair growth as a navigation tool to help them decide which direction to crawl in order to get to a person’s head.

They did this by studying lice on a man’s hairy forearm and then they shaved the forearm bald and repeated the study. After shaving, most lice were confused and seemed to have zero confidence in the direction they chose. Whereas on the hairy arm, nearly all lice navigated confidently through the arm hair and up to the head.

What’s more, they tested both the right arm and left arm which presented lice with hair growth that is both clockwise and counter-clockwise. The lice understood the hair growth pattern and nearly 100% of the lice knew which direction to travel in order to get to the man’s head. Fascinating!

Do Lice Have Wings and Can Lice Fly

You will be happy to learn that Head lice do not have wings and lice cannot fly. This is good news for helping to control the spread of head lice.

Can Lice Drown or Do They Swim

Lice do not swim. If you put them in a jar of water, they will keep themselves afloat, but they don’t really move around, purposely swimming. If you put lice in a jar and use something to sink them to the bottom, they will not swim back up to the top.

Can taking an extended bath or shower with your hair underwater kill or drown head lice? The answer is NO. And it’s why so many people have a hard time getting rid of head lice. Using water immersion to treat head lice is still highly ineffective, but tricky lice will have you thinking that they’re dead.

These pesky buggers hold on to the hair shaft and hold their breath even after 24 hours they could still be alive and after being removed from liquid they can reanimate and continue on, perfectly healthy.

The water immersion method might put lice in a coma but you’re not going to get rid of head lice with a long bath or shower. Sorry it would be much easier if that were possible.

Many studies have proven that a large percentage of lice (nearly 50%) survived 24 hour full water immersion at the bottom of a jar. link to one such study

Can Lice Be Black

Head lice can be translucent which can blend in with any color or type of hair. However lice are mostly known to be tan, or grayish white and sometimes very dark brown. They can even take on the coloring of the hair of their host. So they can appear brown, black, red, translucent all of these are options.

Can Lice Attach to Clothes

Yes! Since lice have 6 legs equipped with claws, they are highly capable of moving from one person to another if let’s say, their shirt sleeves are touching.

Lice can also stay inside of hats, scarves, pillow cases etc., making it a very bad idea to share articles of clothing, towels, and bedding during a lice breakout in the home.

Can Lice Bugs Jump

No, they cannot take off and jump. But, they can fall without suffering damage. So if a louse were to fall from one person’s head and land on the carpet. That louse will very likely survive the fall and then use all of its senses to find a new host for feeding.

Can Lice Crawl

Yes, actually, that’s the best way to describe the way lice move. Simply put, lice crawl from point A to point B. They are skilled crawlers who can navigate just about any type of surface with speed. Well, with the exception of wet or oily smooth surfaces. Lice have a hard time with that.

But think how quickly a skilled baby can crawl, one who has been crawling for months. Yes, lice can be fast crawlers too!


Lice move fast! They have 6 legs and each of them serves as a walking stick to help them navigate quickly and easily through hair, skin and clothing. Lice also understand hair growth direction and gravity.

They use their skills and senses to get their final destination…your head, as quickly as possible.

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