Natural Resources, School of


Date of this Version



Journal of Medical Entomology 44:1 (January 2007), pp. 42–49.


U.S. Government Work


Buggy Creek virus (family Togaviridae, genus Alphavirus, BCRV) is an alphavirus within the western equine encephalitis virus complex whose primary vector is the swallow bug, Oeciacus vicarius Horvath (Hemiptera: Cimicidae), an ectoparasite of the colonially nesting cliff swallow, Petrochelidon pyrrhonota, that is also a frequent host for the virus.We investigated ecological correlates of BCRV infection in 100-bug pools at 14 different swallow colony sites in southwestern Nebraska from summer 2004, by using plaque assay on Vero cells to identify cytopathic virus and reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction to identify noncytopathic viral RNA. We found 26.7% of swallow bug pools positive for BCRV, with 15.6% showing cytopathic (“infectious”) virus and 11.0% noncytopathic (“noninfectious”) viral RNA. The prevalence of cytopathic BCRV increased with cliff swallow colony size in the current year; the percentage of noncytopathic samples at a site did not vary with colony size in the current year but increased with the previous year's colony size at a site. Active colony sites (those used by swallows) had higher percentages of cytopathic BCRV in bug pools than at inactive colony sites, but the reverse held for noncytopathic viral RNA. Nests that were occupied by birds at some time in the season had more pools with cytopathic BCRV than did inactive nests. Colonies used by birds for the first or second time had less virus in bugs than did sites that had had a longer history of bird use. The percentage of pools with BCRV was affected by whether bugs were clustering at nest entrances or distributed elsewhere on a nest. The prevalence of cytopathic samples decreased at inactive colony sites and increased at active sites over the course of the summer, whereas the reverse pattern held for noncytopathic samples. Noncytopathic bug pools seem to reflect infection patterns from a previous year. The results suggest that the birds play an important role in amplification of the virus and that the spatial foci of BCRV occurrence can be predicted based on characteristics of cliff swallow colonies and the cimicid bugs that are associated with them.