U.S. Department of Agriculture: Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service


Date of this Version



J. Med. Entomol. 47(5): 897-901 (2010); DOI: 10.1603/ME10039


The cliff swallow (Petrochelidon pyrrhonota, Vieillot) could potentially play an important role in the transmission of West Nile virus (WNV) because of its breeding ecology, reservoir competence status, and potentially high natural exposure rates. These birds nest in colonies and their nests are occupied year round by swallow bugs (Oeciacus vicarius, Hovarth), hematophagus ectoparasites that feed primarily on cliff swallows. Swallow bugs are most likely exposed to WNV while feeding on infectious blood of cliff swallows and, thus, if competent vectors, could contribute to initiation and maintenance of seasonal WNV transmission. In addition, swallow bugs remain within nests year round and, therefore, if persistently infected and competent vectors, they could provide an overwintering mechanism for WNV. We tested the hypothesis that swallow bugs become infected with WNV through direct abdominal inoculation or ingestion of infectious blood meals. We observed that swallow bugs did not maintain or amplify WNV, and infectious virus titers within bugs declined over 15 d post-exposure. These results suggest that swallow bugs may not be competent vectors of WNV, and therefore are unlikely to play a significant role in transmission.