The swallow bug (Oeciacus vicarius) is the only known vector for Buggy Creek virus (BCRV), an alphavirus that circulates in cliff swallows (Petrochelidon pyrrhonota) and house sparrows (Passer domesticus) in North America. We discovered ants (Crematogaster lineolata and Formica spp.) preying on swallow bugs at cliff swallow colonies in western Nebraska, U.S.A. Ants reduced the numbers of visible bugs on active swallow nests by 74–90%, relative to nests in the same colony without ants. Ant predation on bugs had no effect on the reproductive success of cliff swallows inhabiting the nests where ants foraged. Ants represent an effective and presumably benign way of controlling swallow bugs at nests in some colonies. They may constitute an alternative to insecticide use at sites where ecologists wish to remove the effects of swallow bugs on cliff swallows or house sparrows. By reducing bug numbers, ant presence may also lessen BCRV transmission at the spatial foci (bird colony sites) where epizootics occur. The effect of ants on swallow bugs should be accounted for in studying variation among sites in vector abundance.
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Vol. 40 • No. 1