In 2007 there was a long thread concerning why people in concentration camps did not eat lice. I’d like to pick that up again. I’ve read that they shook the lice off pieces of bread crawling with lice which they then ate. This seems to imply that in fact they did not eat lice. Responses to this question were that (1)it was difficult to colonize and harvest the insects; (2) that eating one’s own parasites is unproductive; (3) that lice are too tiny to curb hunger and some other reasons. If they crawled on bread the first reply doesn’t seem to correspond to the facts. Since lice feed exclusively on blood the second reply is weak as ingesting one’s own blood might be productive.
I need this information for an image in a poem I wrote and would appreciate any help on the subject. I’ve discovered that monkeys do eat their own lice but chimps do not although I thought they did. That was the image I was working with: of chimps grooming each other and eating their lice. It’s a metaphor of desperation, not meant to be factual but it has to be a possibility for the poem to work.
I think that monkey lice, chimp lice and human lice are different species. I also think that human lice may cause typhus and suspect that’s why the Nazis shaved the heads of prisoners and employed the dreaded Zyklon B to kill lice initially before using it to kill people. And the principle reason no one did eat lice. But I’m not sure about my facts and haven’t found anything on the web to help me.
The poem I wrote has to do with the Judaic laws of Kashrut forbidding certain foods, one of which is insects, because they are unclean and to eat them is a sin. I hate to lose the image of starving people grooming one another but of course I need to drop it or rework it if chimps don’t eat their lice and if even desperately starving people avoid lice as a food source. I know in prisoner of war camps people did kill rats and insects for food and that some insects like crickets are considered delicacies but those insects weren’t available in Europe so I’m kind of stuck.
Any knowledgeable input would be appreciated. Thank you.