Animals frequently host organisms on their surface which can be beneficial, have no effect or a negative effect on their host. Ectoparasites, by definition, are those which incur costs to their host, but these costs may vary. Examples of avian ectoparasites are chewing lice which feed exclusively on dead feather or skin material; therefore, costs to their bird hosts are generally considered small. Theoretically, many possible proximate effects exist, like loss of tissue or food, infected bites, transmission of microparasitic diseases or reduced body insulation due to loss of feathers, which may ultimately also have fitness consequences. Here, we experimentally examined a possible negative impact of 2 feather-eating louse species (Meropoecus meropis and Brueelia apiastri) on male and female European bee-eaters (Merops apiaster) by removing or increasing louse loads and comparing their impact to a control group (lice removed and immediately returned) after 1 month. A negative effect of chewing lice was found on body mass and sedimentation rate and to a lesser extent on haematocrit levels. Males and females lost more weight when bearing heavy louse loads, and were more susceptible to infestations as indicated by the higher sedimentation rate. Our results further suggest differences in sex-specific susceptibility.