Endangered Species? Bikini Waxes Wiping Out Pubic Lice

Bikini waxes and other hair-removal treatments are endangering crab lice populations.

Pubic lice have plagued mankind for thousands of years, but the itchy pests are now facing a enemy that threatens to wipe them out: bikini waxing.

Also known as crab lice, the tiny insects lay their eggs on pubic hair. But as Brazilian waxes and other hair-removal procedures become more common among men and women, the bugs' breeding cycle is interrupted, and populations are now plunging as low as bikini briefs themselves.

"The 'habitat destruction' of the pubic lice is increasing and they are becoming an endangered species," Janet Wilson, a consultant in sexual health, told Bloomberg News.

The main sexual health clinic in Sydney, Australia, hasn't seen a woman with an infestation of pubic lice since 2008, reports Bloomberg, and cases among men have fallen 80 percent in the past decade.

A 2011 study published in the journal Sex Roles revealed that 80 percent of college-age men and women in the United States have removed some or all of their pubic hair.

The popularity of bikini waxing exploded after it was given exposure on television shows like "Sex and the City," Bloomberg reports. Men are signing up for extensive hair-removal treatments like one called the "Sunga" that costs $90 and removes all pubic hair, including on the scrotum, according to the Daily Mail.

Pubic lice are a different species from head lice, and evidence suggests humans caught pubic lice from gorillas some 3 million years ago (no not from human-gorilla sex, but rather from sleeping in their nests or eating apes), according to a 2007 report detailed in the journal BMC Biology. Because a lice infestation is easily treated with insecticidal soaps, and because they don't spread any diseases, public health organizations keep few records of infestation rates, Bloomberg reports.

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Marc Lallanilla
Live Science Contributor
Marc Lallanilla has been a science writer and health editor at About.com and a producer with ABCNews.com. His freelance writing has appeared in the Los Angeles Times and TheWeek.com. Marc has a Master's degree in environmental planning from the University of California, Berkeley, and an undergraduate degree from the University of Texas at Austin.