Alphaviruses (Togaviridae) have rarely been found to persist for long in the adult insects that serve as their vectors. The ectoparasitic swallow bug (Hemiptera: Cimicidae: Oeciacus vicarius Horvath), the vector for Buggy Creek virus (BCRV; Togaviridae, Alphavirus), lives year-round in the mud nests of its host, the cliff swallow (Petrochelidon pyrrhonota Vieillot). We measured the prevalence of BCRV in swallow bugs at sites with cliff swallows present and at the same sites after cliff swallows had been absent for 2 yr. We collected bugs directly from cliff swallow nests in the field and screened bug pools with BCRV-specific real-time-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) and plaque assay. At two colony sites last occupied by birds 2 yr earlier, we found 12.5 and 55.6% of bug pools positive for BCRV RNA by RT-PCR, Infection rates (per 1,000 bugs) for these sites were 1.32 and 7.39. RNA prevalence in the unfed bugs was not significantly different from that in fed bugs 2 yr earlier at the same sites. The RNA-positive samples from unfed bugs failed to yield cytopathic BCRV by Vero-cell plaque assay. However, viral RNA concentrations did not differ between unfed bugs and bugs at active sites, and over 84% of positive bug pools were cytopathic to Vero cells 4–5 wk later, after cliff swallows moved into one of the colony sites. These data demonstrate the persistence of potentially infectious BCRV in unfed swallow bugs for at least 2 yr in nature.
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