Arboviruses have seldom been found overwintering in adult vectors at northern latitudes in North America. Buggy Creek virus (BCRV; Togaviridae, Alphavirus) is an ecologically unusual arbovirus vectored principally by the cimicid swallow bug (Oeciacus vicarius Horvath). The ectoparasitic bugs reside year-round in the mud nests of their host, the cliff swallow (Petrochelidon pyrrhonota Vieillot). We report successful overwintering of infectious BCRV in bugs at a field site in western North Dakota, where mid-winter temperatures routinely reach -11 to -15°C. Approximately 21% of bug pools were positive for virus in early spring just before the cliff swallows' return to their nesting colonies; this proportion did not differ significantly from that in summer at active cliff swallow nesting colonies in the same study area. Fewer of the isolates in early spring were cytopathic on Vero cells, and those that were infectious showed less plaque formation than did summer samples. The results show that infectious BCRV commonly overwinters in the adult stages of its vector at northern latitudes in North America.
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Vol. 46 • No. 2