As much as that sounds like a euphemism, it isn’t.

Remember the crazy guy who claims he has specially bred giant Japanese crab lice that don’t bite? And that they make great pets? (Like Sea Monkeys in Your Pants!)

So, when I wrote about that, and how utterly full of shit that website is, I got an email from a reporter. The LoveBugz.net website offers to send you your very own “pets” if you send them your address and a buck. The reporter wanted to buy some lice and have me look at them.

I thought the site was just a creative ad-farm scheme, so said “Sure! Send ‘em to me!”
Because, seriously.
It had to be a a scam. Who is going to go to the Better Business Bureau and complain that they didn’t get the pubic lice they paid for?

Just in case, though, I gave him my home address, rather than my work address, since I have only been in my new job 7 months and wasn’t sure what might show up in the mailroom.

And then: An envelope DID show up. (Sealed with duct tape, too!)

It appears to have a postal mark from Teterboro, NJ. And scrawled across the front: “Live Insects! Handle with Care!”

Inside was a folded letter, and inside the letter was this:

I think most of you are having the same reaction I did: EW.

The letter that came with it had instructions:

I think I can safely speak for the vast majority of the readers of this blog when I say “Oh, HELL no!”

I’ll wait while the mass collective shuddering dies down.

So I put the “specimen” in a sealed tupperware container with a moist towel, set it on my plant warming pad (since lice are triggered to emerge by moisture and heat), and took them to work with me the next day. Where 2 graduate students were fascinated, and 1 was pretty much traumatized by the whole concept and probably tried to autoclave herself after I left the lab.

[Also, a tip: if you walk into your new workplace brandishing a container of putative pubic lice and sand, you may want to provide a more detailed back story than "I bought them on the internet." Just some advice.]

Anyway, we looked carefully under the scope, and aside from documenting that Mr. LoveBugz is (a) brunette; and (b) has pubic hair that is very smooth and well conditioned; we found no nits or lice.

There was sand; and there was some stuff that looked like seed capsules; but unless lice have developed egg capsules that look remarkably like they have cell walls, there were no nits, dead or alive.

Here’s the closest thing to a nit I found (additional photos here and here.) Nothing that I have read in any taxonomic descriptions so far mentions this kind of pattern.

While plant cells have cell walls, no animal cells do. Ergo: This ain’t an animal.
Everything I picked out of that sample turned out to look very similar–plant material, not animal.

There are regrettably few photos of crab lice nits available online, although plenty exist for head lice. You can see some sculpturing of the outer egg case in this photo, but nothing like…well, cell walls. You don’t see it in this electron micrograph, either.

There was a hole in the envelope, so it is entirely possible that the nits that were promised fell out of the envelope in transit. However, why in the world would you not send them in a sealed container of some kind? Even a paper towel in an unsealed Baggieâ„¢ would have worked.

And why mail them in sand? Sand is abrasive, and likely to crush anything else during transit in surface mail. Sending the lice packed in sand, and telling the recipient to put sand in their undies and not wash for a week?
Yeah, that’ll happen.

Conclusion: The Site is Still Bullshit.
But they are willing to go a long way to keep up their hoax and/or delusion.

[cross-posted from the Bug Blog]

bug_girl

bug_girl

Bug_girl has a PhD in Entomology, and is a pointy-headed former academic living in Ohio. She is obsessed with insects, but otherwise perfectly normal. Really!
If you want a daily stream of cool info about bugs, follow her Facebook page or find her on Twitter.

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74 Comments

  1. Avatar of Sam Ogden
    May 5, 2008 at 10:48 am —

    Think I’d keep a bottle of Rid around, just in case.

  2. Avatar of K.O. Myers
    May 5, 2008 at 10:54 am —

    There’s some crazy shite on the Internet, but that’s just… damn. I don’t care how desperate you are for companionship, or how interested you are in cultivating a novel species of insect. Any product whose instructions include “don’t wash your crotch for about a week” isn’t worth the results, no matter how fantastic. This is especially true when the result is an infestation of live vermin.

    And the whole claim that they’ve been specially bred out of their biteyness doesn’t make it any better. Despite the obvious BS factor – if they’re not biting, they’re starving to death – they’re still living in your pubes! I’m pretty sure that’s the textbook definition of disgusting.

    Unless they’ve been bred to not bite, and also to do my laundry, walk my dog, wash the dished and write a bestselling novel, I’m not going to dump an envelope full of sand and theoretical eggs into my shorts. Even if nothing biological happens, the best case scenario is that I’ve got a sand-covered sack that I can’t wash for a week! No, no thank you.

    Man, I’m not sure why this got me so worked up. Sorry.

  3. Avatar of LOLkate
    May 5, 2008 at 11:02 am —

    this might be the most horrifying thing EVER.

  4. Avatar of Janiece
    May 5, 2008 at 11:09 am —

    As I was reading this, I kept saying to myself, “She’s lying. I KNOW she must be lying.”

    Horrifying indeed.

    Who intentionally infests themselves with crotch lice? Seriously. Who?

  5. Avatar of Geomodal
    May 5, 2008 at 11:25 am —

    That is quite possibly the weirdest thing I have ever heard. I would self-autoclave, but I’m not sure if we have one of those around here… I guess I’ll just go upstairs and have the diamond anvil cell guy shoot me with his laser.

  6. Avatar of Elyse
    May 5, 2008 at 12:07 pm —

    I don’t even know how to feel about this.

    And I don’t know which is worse: actually selling pubic lice or selling sham pubic lice or that now there is actually such thing as “sham pubic lice”

  7. Avatar of aiabx
    May 5, 2008 at 12:10 pm —

    Who intentionally infests themselves with crotch lice? Seriously. Who?

    I’m guessing people who really want some kind of affection, even if it is just from gross little bugs. But if you did want to infect yourself with crotch lice, there have to me more entertaining ways of getting them than ordering from a web site. Aren’t there fraternities where Bug Girl lives?

  8. Avatar of durnett
    May 5, 2008 at 12:13 pm —

    I’m inspired to start my very own weekly Martyr of Science Award.

    Congratulations bug_girl! You are the first winner!

    I know that the week has only just begin, but I can’t imagine anyone making a bigger sacrifice of personal health, hygiene and sanity than someone who volunteers to receive pubic hair and lice in her “mailbox” in the pursuit of knowledge.

    Keep up the good work and invest in a good razor!

  9. Avatar of Bjornar
    May 5, 2008 at 12:54 pm —

    Thank you for ordering crotch lice off the web, so we don’t have to! :-D

  10. Avatar of teambanzai
    May 5, 2008 at 1:04 pm —

    Well I know of at least one honest web site that sells exactly what they promise.

    origamiboulder.com

  11. Avatar of Rebecca Watson
    May 5, 2008 at 1:14 pm —

    Bjornar, I just used your line when submitting this to Fark. My god, bug_girl. You’ve raised the bar for all of us here at Skepchick, and I salute you. Don’t touch me.

  12. Avatar of Peregrine
    May 5, 2008 at 1:25 pm —

    If the only business this “service” manages to do is for an Entomologist on behalf of a reporter for the purpose of exposing what a sham it is in addition to being a fundamentally bad idea, then maybe there is hope for humanity. But if there actually is a market for this sort of thing, then… all bets are off.

  13. Avatar of Lyc
    May 5, 2008 at 1:29 pm —

    I really dont know what’s worse…

    (1) They willingly infect themselves with crabs think there is a market for them
    (2) They say “dont practice basic hygine for a week”
    (3) They appear to have a small rainforest growing in their pubic area

    I think I’ll find a nice big bath of organophospate to swim in for a while…ewww.

  14. Avatar of JanieBelle
    May 5, 2008 at 1:31 pm —

    I am soooo disappointed.

    …that you wouldn’t go the full monty for your readers. C’mon, be a sport and dump the sand in your draws.

    What’s the worst that could happen? A week from now you’ll be a little crabby?

  15. Avatar of James Fox
    May 5, 2008 at 1:45 pm —

    As my fourteen year daughter would saw, That just naaaasty!!

  16. Avatar of Peregrine
    May 5, 2008 at 1:45 pm —

    That would be so far above and beyond the call of duty…

  17. Avatar of James Fox
    May 5, 2008 at 1:50 pm —

    Just remembered a line I heard from my high school biology teacher; “don’t throw tooth picks in public toilets, crabs can pole vault.” Had no idea what he was talking about until someone explained it later. Clearly my health class was more concerned with infections than infestations!

  18. Avatar of Masala Skeptic
    May 5, 2008 at 1:55 pm —

    Bug_Girl, when you signed up to write for this blog, did you have any idea that you’d soon be getting pubes in the mail?

    Thank goodness I don’t have a speciality or any kind of science ability! I could NOT handle that. No way. No how. No bugs. The line must be drawn here… This far, no further….

  19. Avatar of Augustus
    May 5, 2008 at 1:58 pm —

    So after these things hatch, how are you supposed to get them off your crotch? Are you supposed to just allow your crotch to be a lice terrarium? Which of course leads to the question: “Is that a pubic lice terrarium in your pocket or are you just happy to see me?”

  20. Avatar of Sean
    May 5, 2008 at 2:09 pm —

    I eagerly await for the domain name 2girls1crab to be registered.

  21. Avatar of bug_girl
    May 5, 2008 at 2:22 pm —

    I think we have several nominees for “comment of the week in this thread” :D

  22. Avatar of JanieBelle
    May 5, 2008 at 2:41 pm —

    Oh I dunno. Some of the jokes are pretty lousy.

  23. Avatar of bug_girl
    May 5, 2008 at 2:46 pm —

    You’re just nit-picking.

  24. Avatar of JanieBelle
    May 5, 2008 at 2:47 pm —

    Damn. I was just sitting here trying to come up with a nit picking joke.

  25. Avatar of K.O. Myers
    May 5, 2008 at 2:52 pm —

    Only because it’s so obvious.

    Your puns are making me crabby.

  26. Avatar of JanieBelle
    May 5, 2008 at 3:04 pm —

    Alas, unfortunately for the literary world, “Crotch Crickets” is sans double entendre.

  27. Avatar of Rebecca Watson
    May 5, 2008 at 3:11 pm —

    Great, an excuse for people to compete to come up with the best nit wit.

  28. Avatar of philistereo
    May 5, 2008 at 3:19 pm —

    Unfortunately, I can see some of my crusty friends being into this…not washing one’s crotch for a week is no stretch.

    Personally, I was most disturbed by the testimonials:
    “A week later, whenever I scratched, I could only think of him and this lasting momento of our encounter. Our bodies are now linked in a deeply spiritual and biological way. I can barely stop touching myself and thinking of him.”

    …doesn’t she mean, I can barely stop itching myself and want to kick him in the face?? The fact that some people get sexual satisfaction is just….eeeugh.

  29. Avatar of JanieBelle
    May 5, 2008 at 3:19 pm —

    ooo very clever, Rebecca.

    Interesting tidbit from Wikipedia:

    Recent DNA evidence suggests that pubic lice spread to the ancestors of humans approximately 3.3 million years ago from the ancestors of gorillas by sharing the same bed or other communal areas with them, and are more closely related to lice endemic to gorillas than to other lice species infesting humans [2].

  30. Avatar of bug_girl
    May 5, 2008 at 3:22 pm —

    I wouldn’t mind it so much if they just told the TRUTH about what pubic lice are.

    They drink your blood.
    They cause some nasty skin rashes.

    If you want to get off on that, fine.

    But don’t make a website telling people your “special” lice eat dandruff and poop rainbows.

  31. Avatar of bug_girl
    May 5, 2008 at 3:24 pm —

    And yeah, I covered the lice taxonomy thing a while back. Most interesting.

    Here’s a better article:

    http://www.nytimes.com/2007/03/08/science/08louse.html?_r=2&oref=slogin&oref=slogin

  32. Avatar of Augustus
    May 5, 2008 at 3:27 pm —

    I’m going to resist making a bad pun here, but it’s going to take all of my mite

  33. Avatar of JanieBelle
    May 5, 2008 at 3:47 pm —

    Thanks Bug Girl.

    I love the fact that humans have hit the louse hat-trick. At least when you lie down with dogs you only get up with fleas.

    It’s funny how that NYTimes article hems and haws…

    Among people, the pubic louse is usually spread by sexual contact, but the gorilla louse could have been contracted in some other way.

    Oh come on. Only a nit wit would be upset that 3.3 million years ago gorillas were not getting high hatted by human ancestors.

    Dr. Stoneking said Dr. Reed’s reconstruction was “pretty reasonable” and said he agreed that acquisition of the gorilla’s louse indicated people had lost their body hair by then. “The transfer doesn’t have to be sexual,” he said, “but presumably it does require reasonably close contact.”

    Oh? Like what? Arm wrestling?

  34. Avatar of kookbreaker
    May 5, 2008 at 3:48 pm —

    OK, next time someone winces at the idea of Triops or Grow a Frog in my store I am going to mention these things.

    ****shiver****

    Ants in the Pants, the live action version.

  35. Avatar of aiabx
    May 5, 2008 at 4:03 pm —

    You need to feed them something, because big lice are easier to believe than small lice.

  36. Avatar of bug_girl
    May 5, 2008 at 4:03 pm —

    “At least when you lie down with dogs you only get up with fleas.”

    Um.
    Actually:

    http://membracid.wordpress.com/2008/04/09/ask-an-entomologist-larva-migrans/

  37. Avatar of JOHNEA13
    May 5, 2008 at 4:24 pm —

    When I was young I kept some ant lions as pets. I kept them in a box of dirt where they would dig their little pits and I would drop in little critters I found for them to eat. I forget how many pupated and turned into adults (quite a change).
    Some were cannibals and ate any others that got too close.

  38. Avatar of JanieBelle
    May 5, 2008 at 4:38 pm —

    Oh yuck, Bug Girl.

    I was playing off the old proverb and you had to go ruin my barefoot traipsing through the world. I avoid shoes at all costs unless I’m dressing up. (Then trembles the world.)

    I shall now go off and make silly pouty faces for upwards of five minutes.

    … with my shoes on.

  39. Avatar of James Fox
    May 5, 2008 at 5:17 pm —

    PETA will be making a press release tomorrow accusing bug_girl of not allowing said bugs to achieve their full potential as living creatures.

  40. Avatar of P.E. Robinson
    May 5, 2008 at 5:27 pm —

    This has to be one of the grossest things I’ve read.

    Ick.

  41. Avatar of Tracy King
    May 5, 2008 at 5:36 pm —

    This is one of the most awesome things I’ve read! Other people’s pubes are a little gross, but the spirit of investigation is fabulous. And also the puns.

  42. Avatar of JanieBelle
    May 5, 2008 at 5:41 pm —

    And also the puns.

    Well James left some especially low hanging fruit (snicker) regarding what’s supposed to be going on in Bug Girl’s underwear with

    to achieve their full potential as living creatures.

    but I had been hogging the thread and thought I’d cede the floor for a while.

  43. Avatar of James Fox
    May 5, 2008 at 6:56 pm —

    “Well James left some especially low hanging fruit ..”

    The opportunities for self actualization among pubic lice should not be mocked! .

  44. Avatar of Rav Winston
    May 5, 2008 at 7:09 pm —

    JanieBelle, you’re just too licentious for me….

  45. Avatar of OrchidGrowinMan
    May 5, 2008 at 7:19 pm —

    But here’s something WORSE, and it is real:

    http://education.guardian.co.uk/egweekly/story/0,,2181270,00.html

    Science-Fair project, anyone?

    Find the original article: the late Dr. Lopez (DVM) used, according to his own account, approximately ONE GRAM of seething material. The link above is sufficient to find-out what it was seething with, and what he did with it. And he did it three times.

  46. Avatar of OrchidGrowinMan
    May 5, 2008 at 7:34 pm —

    But Dr Lopez managed to father fourteen children…. Maybe it works like this: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0073705/plotsummary

  47. Avatar of scotte
    May 5, 2008 at 9:00 pm —

    I may throw up with laughter.

  48. Avatar of BigHeathenMike
    May 5, 2008 at 10:12 pm —

    So I guess if you’re a Brazilian-waxed porn star, you’d have to get yourself a merkin and drop the nits in there (presuming you actually get some delivered) to let ‘em breed away in fake hair glory.

    Of course, no one wants a mouthful of buggy merkin, so before you leap to intimacy, get your bits detailed professionally.

  49. Avatar of Kerry Maxwell
    May 5, 2008 at 10:12 pm —

    Sand and pubic lice have a long association as part of a bad joke about a *cure* for crabs: “How do you cure the crabs? – pour whiskey and sand in your pubes. The crabs will get drunk and stone each other to death.” Personally, I always preferred the absurdist cure: shave off half your pubic hair and set the remaining half on fire. As the lice flee the fire, stab them with an ice-pick.

    For a really gut-churning account of self-experimentation, check out the following account from “Who goes first?: the story of self-experimentation in medicine” By Lawrence K. Altman :

  50. Avatar of K.O. Myers
    May 5, 2008 at 10:17 pm —

    Of course, no one wants a mouthful of buggy merkin, If I ever get tired of my current handle, I’m totally going to change it to “Buggy Merkin.”

  51. Avatar of MarlowePI
    May 5, 2008 at 10:47 pm —

    Personally, I always preferred the absurdist cure: shave off half your pubic hair and set the remaining half on fire. As the lice flee the fire, stab them with an ice-pick.

    My mom told me this joke before I even heard of pubic lice.

  52. Avatar of patcicle
    May 6, 2008 at 1:16 am —

    I apologize as I’ve only been lurking here for a while and there may be some unwritten unmentionable topic, but has no one noticed that the guy is “pulling together a pictures page for the site” Now if there are people that have a fetish for pubic lice, surely there is an adult site (or one in the works) for people who like to see pubic lice in action. and all the sub fetishes that go with them. Blonde, Asian, Gorilla, etc.. I may be reading too much into it, and he may just mean vacation photos of you and your pubic lice friends at the public truck stop drinking a brew, But is it really that much of a stretch to think that if someone was willing to place nits in the crotch and not wash until they hatch, that they wouldn’t be willing to take pictures? and just how would they bath without washing there anyway?

  53. Avatar of Lyc
    May 6, 2008 at 2:30 am —

    I do wonder though if these advertised “wonder crabs” can be set up to form their own ‘flea circus’.

    They already have the underwear material to make the tent – (men already come equipped with a central supporting structure, women may need to provide the scaffolding), plenty of material for the ‘high wire’ and tight rope acts, singing with the possibility of a calliope if they tapped into a methane source, but don’t ask what the clowns use as custard pies. Just dont.

    The downside is of course people would probably back away very quickly when they heard the cheery calliope mustic emerging from ones nether regions, and the bulge caused by the big top tent. And if the Ringmaster started calling out “Roll up, roll up, roll up” the reaction of the public nearby would be bad indeed. Even if they did crap rainbows.

  54. Avatar of Rav Winston
    May 6, 2008 at 8:11 am —

    Flea Circus of nits? Thanks– I now have an image in my mind of The Mighty Angelo, of Looney Tunes fame, nesting down in someone’s crotch (instead of on a “nice quiet dog in the country”).

  55. Avatar of bug_girl
    May 6, 2008 at 8:15 am —

    I just added this addendum to more fully explain my conclusions at the Bug Blog, where some are questioning my conclusion:

    Some folks are arguing that I haven’t “proven” that the site is BS. Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. They claim to have lice that don’t drink blood and aren’t irritating–which contradicts what we know about all 3 types of human body lice for recorded history, as well as physical evidence for an even long period of time.

    They have provided no additional evidence for me to evaluate that claim, and in fact set things up so it would fail. I stick with my conclusion.

    We are also discussing the crotch shaving/waxing issue:
    http://membracid.wordpress.com/2008/05/04/i-have-pubic-lice-in-my-mailbox/#comment-18138

  56. Avatar of JOHNEA13
    May 6, 2008 at 8:28 am —

    I looked at the site and suspect it just revolves around some bizzare sexual fetish.

  57. Avatar of JOHNEA13
    May 6, 2008 at 8:33 am —

    Argh after posting I thought I better clarify. I meant the original lice site nit oops freudian slip- not Buggirls site.

  58. Avatar of Lyc
    May 6, 2008 at 9:16 am —

    Well, if the crab version of ‘The mighty Angelo’ took up residence, you could say you were implementing a “Self Defence Crotch Protection System” – though having to remove your pants to allow the system to be activated may be problematic. But as an added benefit, his curly mustache could be used for self amusement.

    Ah ha! A revelation!

    Its not the crabs which are important! They have to be Italian crabs with Dali style mustaches!

  59. Avatar of bug_girl
    May 6, 2008 at 9:16 am —

    Thanks for the clarification!!!!

  60. Avatar of David Harmon
    May 6, 2008 at 9:40 am —

    Sending real lice could get them in trouble with the local or federal Departments of Health and the like.

    And the health agencies probably have better reaction times than the Mail Fraud guys at the FBI….

  61. Avatar of JSug
    May 6, 2008 at 12:50 pm —

    I’m guessing Mr. Bugger gets off on the fantasy that he’s sending snips of his pubic hair to strangers, who are then, purportedly, dumping said pubes into their underwear.

    It takes all kinds. ALL kinds.

  62. Avatar of bug_girl
    May 6, 2008 at 4:00 pm —

    Actually, I asked my UDSA friends, but no one seems to know who would regulate lice via mail.

    It isn’t the sort of thing you would think about legislating for, normally.

  63. Avatar of Rav Winston
    May 6, 2008 at 4:17 pm —

    Damn! Call out the Lice Squad! D.S.I.: Hygiene!

  64. Avatar of JOHNEA13
    May 6, 2008 at 4:52 pm —

    A new law and order spinoff; Lice and odor.
    Egad Giant Japanese lice ! Where is mothra when you need it?

  65. Avatar of dcarm
    May 6, 2008 at 10:41 pm —

    Surely in this instance the L&O spinoff would be Larval Order : STD

  66. Avatar of JOHNEA13
    May 7, 2008 at 6:33 am —

    Ha Ha Thats a good one!

  67. Avatar of Tracy King
    May 7, 2008 at 3:52 pm —

    Buggy Merkin for President!

    I have nothing of value to add to this thread. Seriously. I’m just really enjoying being part of it.

  68. Avatar of JanieBelle
    May 7, 2008 at 4:17 pm —

    C’mon, Bug Girl.

    Do the science, and give us pictures of the nitty gritty details!

  69. Avatar of JOHNEA13
    May 7, 2008 at 5:48 pm —

    JanieBell since you suggested it you should organize a study consisting of you and all the Skepchicks as subjects. Some will be exposed to the Giant Japanese mutant lice, some to regular Japanese lice, some to USA lice and some just to sand. I will do my part to help the test by collecting data through daily exams of searching for and measuring welts,etc (on the ones exposed to sand — someone else can collect the data on the lousy ones). Come on do your duty for science! I can hear my subjects now: hey you’re not measuring a welt with that ruler. Me: That’s not my ruler.

  70. Avatar of Rav Winston
    May 7, 2008 at 6:42 pm —

    …That’s not my ruler, or That’s not my ruler…?

    –See, that’s the trouble with some blokes; give ‘im an inch, and he thinks he’s a ruler….

  71. Avatar of Rav Winston
    May 7, 2008 at 6:44 pm —

    @ Teek– Actually, it’s D.C. (Buggy) Merkin of STPD.

    (Damnation! That doesn’t quite work, does it…?)

  72. Avatar of JOHNEA13
    May 9, 2008 at 9:55 am —

    One of my previous girlfriends got pubic lice. She said she got them from riding the tractor in her bathing suit.

  73. Avatar of James Fox
    May 9, 2008 at 6:55 pm —

    JOHNEA13: “One of my previous girlfriends got pubic lice. She said she got them from riding the tractor in her bathing suit.”

    She deserved a John Deere letter…

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