Thanksgiving in the USA is a time when many families gather to eat turkey. Turkey is not only a popular meal for people. Several types of insects feed on turkey as well. One of the most common types of insects feeding on turkeys are lice. There are about 40 species of bird lice that commonly infest poultry and many of them can survive on turkeys. The bird lice have chewing mouthparts, unlike the human lice that have a tube to suck blood. The bird lice feed on dry skin scales and feather products. They can irritate the turkeys causing loss of sleep and interfere with nutrition.The most common turkey lice can infest flocks if the birds come in contact with wild turkeys or other birds that carry the lice.
The most common lice lay eggs at the base of the feathers. The lice require about 3 weeks to develop from egg to adult. The adults can live several months and have been known to produce over 100,000 offspring. Bird lice can be eliminated using insecticides similar to those used for treatment of human lice. As with human lice, the treatments do not kill the eggs, so the birds must be retreated after eggs hatch.
So this Thanksgiving, as you fight to be the first to claim the drumstick, remember that an insect may have been there first.