The bugs that infested the Burning Man festival site have left, just as quickly as they dropped in. And now they’ve been identified. The Burning Man festival, which commences August 30, is a popular counterculture-turned-popular event which is famous for not allowing any cash transactions and the famous burning of the enormous effigy. This year, it’s achieved another notoriety, as millions of tiny but annoying bugs took over the campgrounds.
According to NPR, the insects were first noticed by Burning Man photographer John Curley as he stepped out of his vehicle at a gas station near Black Rock, Nevada. “So I pulled in, got out of my car and was immediately swarmed with what seemed to me like locusts at the time,” the Burning Man blogger told NPR. Curley continued to explain that the insects “were really all over. I just said, ‘Forget it.’ I got back in my car immediately. There was no way I was going to brave that little bug storm.”
It appears the swarms of tiny insects, the species of which have since been identified by entomologists, have decided to clear out just in time for the Burning Man event to begin. “This morning the wind shifted…and it blew them all away,” Curley told NPR. “Not to be seen. Gone with the wind.” According to the photographer, however, adverse events are expected at Burning Man.
“We have had weather that ranged from hail the size of canned hams, to hundred-mile-per-hour winds, dust storms, freezing temperatures. When you come to black rock city, you have to be prepared for things like this to happen.”
While reports were circulating that the insects were biting Burning Man employees, experts explained that they weren’t looking for blood, but for water, and they might have emerged because their food source dried up. According to Gizmodo, the tiny white bugs were just due for a population explosion, and since they dine on weeds, as their food source dwindled, they decided to emerge and move on. Entomologist Alex Wild explained that “Desert species are prone to boom/bust cycles,” and told Gizmodo that the bugs “may just be passing through.”
So what species were the bugs anyway? According to Gizmodo, the big green insects were stink bugs, while the smaller white critters were seed bugs. And the welts aren’t caused by biting. Instead, the welts were likely caused by people crushing the tiny creatures — who were likely snacking on mustard plants close to the Burning Man campgrounds. Entomologists assert that the welts were caused by mustard oil. Whatever the reason, it seems Burning Man is no longer under attack by bugs, and is set to begin August 30 as expected.
[Image credit: David McNew/Hulton Archive/Getty Images]