Pubic lice (Phthirus pubis) are tiny parasitic insects that live on coarse human body hair, such as pubic hair.

As well as being found in pubic hair, the lice are also sometimes found in:

  • underarm and leg hair
  • hair on the chest, abdomen and back
  • facial hair, such as beards and moustaches
  • eyelashes and eyebrows (very occasionally)

Unlike head lice, pubic lice don’t live in scalp hair.

Adult pubic lice are very small (2mm long) and aren’t easy to see. They’re a yellow-grey or dusky red colour and have six legs. Pubic lice are sometimes known as crabs because they have two large front legs that look like the claws of a crab. These are used to hold onto the base of hairs.

The lice lay their eggs (nits) in sacs that are stuck firmly to hairs and are a pale brownish colour. When the eggs hatch, the empty egg sacs are white. Although pubic lice and lice eggs are small and difficult to see, they may be visible in coarse hair anywhere on your body (apart from hair on your head).

Learn more about Public Lice by downloading this leaflet.