Nevada Burning Man Festival Bugging Out Over Insect Swarms

Stink bugs and other insects beat revelers to the desert site.

ByGillian Mohney
August 21, 2015, 11:28 AM

— -- Looks like fans might not be the only revelers attending the upcoming Burning Man festival in the Nevada desert. Organizers are reporting swarms of insects and possible stink bugs that are covering equipment and personnel as they prepare for the annual event.

Organizers reported on the Burning Man blog that plenty of insects have arrived, even showing a picture of a carpet covered with the little critters.

"You may have seen the bug rumors on the Internet," according to a recent blog post. "We are here to tell you that they are all true. Well maybe not all of the rumors, but the bugs are real. They’re everywhere. They bite. They crawl all over you."

The festival attracts tens of thousands of revelers to the desert every year and is known for its policy of banning cash transactions and the burning of a giant effigy on the last night of the event.

Other pictures from the preparation for festival, which starts next week, show large green bugs coating tire wheels and other surfaces.

While the bugs seemed to appear mysteriously out of nowhere in Black Rock City, experts say a recent rain likely led to the large number of insects’ arriving at the campground.

Rich Pollack, a public health entomologist and senior environmental public health officer at Harvard University, said he thinks the insects shown in pictures are stink bugs and that the smaller flying insects are a kind of seed bug.

"Most of them are plant feeding; they are all endowed with really stout probicious," Pollack said, explained the bugs may be irritating people if they mistake them for food. "The plant-feeding bugs generally have no interest in feeding on anything else except their preferred plant, [but]they’re so stupid that when they land on something or stand on something, they might sample [it.]"

Pollack explained that it's possible the bright lights used by crews setting up for Burning Man attracted the insects in large numbers.

"When you have the rain event in the desert, two weeks or so later the desert blooms and the bugs will move in and become active," he said. "And you bring in a bright light or bright lights and if there are a lot of people," the bugs can arrive.

Pollack said he thinks it's likely that most of the swarms of bugs will disperse the by the time Burning Man gets fully underway.

"They’re not very long-lived," he explained. "They’re going to develop quickly because they have got to make the most of a very limited resource. When those plants start to brown up, they’re going to disperse or die."

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