Friday, March 16, 2007

The Horror

I have a deep horror of ectoparasites, particularly arthropods, and let's face it particularly lice. I've never really seen one, but the very thought makes my skin crawl and tickly itching break out all over me. I spent N years studying invertebrates and loved them. But they were cuddly filter feeding innocents – not hideous, monstrous, blood-sucking things with legs and biting sucking mouthparts, indecent alien invaders, mini-vampires.
I've been bitten by one or two ticks, which was bad enough. And I remember clearly a night I spent in a recently reoccupied house when I awoke feeling slightly itchy and turned the light on to reveal eight engorged fleas spread over my body, draining my very lifeblood.
However, yesterday, I had my first encounter with nits, the capsules of head lice. Everyone around here says they had them as youngsters, but I come from a part of Surrey where they were probably wiped-out with Smallpox and their hideous name was never whispered.
We'd got a letter from the school saying that they were rife at the moment, and so bought and used the preventative shampoo.
But, there they were in poor Ed's hair. Tiny, almost invisible in fact, and perhaps only detectable because his hair is so fine and fair. Miniscule dark microscopic mouse droppings stuck near the base of a several hairs. Ed didn't mind a bit.
I nearly died of horror!
My scientific instincts kicked in though, and I had to get one under a microscope. You will agree from the photo that this is pure horror!

[Ed's nits are apparently gone now...]

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