Evolution has a remarkable adaptation

Head lice breathe through seven paired spiracles, one on the thorax and six on the abdomen (14 in total). This image shows a lsingle spiracle on the thorax just behind the head.

Adominal Spririacles

Breathing through the Abdomen

The spiracles are in the centre of a raised circular structure set off from the body.

The abdominal spiracles have a muscular sphincter used to control the size of the opening.

The spiracles open into a system of tubes called tracheae. Tracheae occur mainly inside the thorax and abdomen. Nit eggs also are fitted with spiracles in the cap of the egg allowing for the young louse to breath in the egg.

Surviving Underwater

Headlice create an air-bubble around their body when submerged in water

Headlice when submerged in water create a large air bubble around their body for which they can breath. There is sufficient air trapped against their thorax to allow the insect to breath and remain submerged for up to two hours. 

The ability for the air bubble to form and hold suspended around the louse thorax relies on the natural oil coating on the outside of the louse. This oil coating is dissolved by essential oils and therefore the use of essential oils in our Nit Ninja Daily Defence Shampoo and Daily Defence Conditioner targets this mechanism of defence by the lice. Once this waterproofing oil coating is removed, the louse can simply be suffocated by submerging in water.


Oils can easily suffocate headlice

Treatments that work as suffocants — blocking the lice's breathing holes can kill lice without the need for any insecticides.

This is why combing out lice and their nit eggs with Nit Ninja Nick-Picker Lotion works so well.