Lice are ectoparasitic insects hosted by birds and mammals. Mitochondrial 12S rRNA sequences obtained from lice show considerable length variation and are very difficult to align. We show that the louse 12S rRNA domain III secondary structure displays considerable variation compared to other insects, in both the shape and number of stems and loops. Phylogenetic trees constructed from tree edit distances between louse 12S rRNA structures do not closely resemble trees constructed from sequence data, suggesting that at least some of this structural variation has arisen independently in different louse lineages. Taken together with previous work on mitochondrial gene order and elevated rates of substitution in louse mitochondrial sequences, the structural variation in louse 12S rRNA confirms the highly distinctive nature of molecular evolution in these insects.