Burning Man Festival Hit Hard By Bugs And Employee Death [Video]

The Burning Man festival starts next week, but attendees are bugging out – about the bugs that have infested the festival site. According to ABC News, Burning Man organizers are alerting people that swarms of biting insects and stink bugs are covering the area, including equipment and festival personnel.

Photographs shared on the Burning Man blog show hundreds of white bugs covering a carpet at “the Depot” and are warning attendees “You may have seen the bug rumors on the internet. 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. They get up and in you.” Burning Man organizers also shared a photo of a staff member suffering from large red welts caused by the bugs, and explained another staffer, Metal Shop Heather, “wears a welding mask most of the day.”

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The tiny white and black insects, as well as green stink bugs, shown in the photographs reportedly appeared out of nowhere in the Black Rock City. According to ABC News, however, insect experts believe that a recent rain might have led to the infestation as the bugs came out of hiding. Rich Pollack, a public health entomologist from Harvard University, believes the Burning Man photographs show stink bugs as well as seed bugs.

“Most of them are plant feeding…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.]”

Just as the Burning Man site became infested with bugs, disaster struck as a long time staffer, Scott “Spoono” Stephenson, who worked as a Burning Man Department of Public Works employee for 10 years, died of natural causes, “overnight in the Black Rock Desert,” reports NBC News. The news site also reports that police are investigating the cause of death and “declined to identify” the man who died. It’s not believed his death was related to the infestation.

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The Burning Man organization released a statement following Stephenson’s death, writing, “His passing will have an enormous impact on the Burning Man community. Spoono embodied the best of Burning Man values and culture. He was generous to a fault, giving all that he had to the community he loved. He will be missed by all who knew him.”

The Burning Man festival attracts tens of thousands of people to the Nevada desert annually. According to ABC News, Burning Man is well-known for banning cash transactions, and the burning of the giant eponymous man on the last night of the festival. The bugs might put a damper on the fun, but the event is still expected to be well-attended.

[Image credit: David McNew/Hulton Archive/Getty Images]