Creepy Bugs Infest Burning Man

The desert of Black Rock City, Nevada, isn't exactly the Cosmopolitan on the Vegas Strip.

It's a desolate, feral place that has seen floods, extreme temperatures and white-out sand storms. This year it brings you bugs. Lots of bugs. Just in time for Burning Man, which runs Aug. 30 through Sept. 7.

Burning Man photographer John Curley reports on the festival's blog this week that folks who came to the "playa" early to set up shop are having a hard time keeping the critters out of their clothing:

You may have seen the bug rumors on the iInternet. 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.

Twin Peaks, who’s leading the construction of the Center Café, was talking about how bad they are when she jumped a little and pulled her T-shirt away from her body. A good-sized green bug fell to the ground. It had crawled into her bra.

Metal Shop Heather wears a welding mask most of the day. Bugs have crawled up inside her visor and nestled around her eyes. Cammy and Stinger needed some help from the medical team to deal with the infestation; Stinger’s back was covered with nasty red welts from the bites.

Burning Man spokesman Jim Graham confirmed that the playa has been invaded by various desert bugs, but he said it's not clear why they're so numerous this year.

"There are folks out there saying there are more bugs than there have been in recent years," he told us. "It's a pretty extreme environment. If it's not white-outs, it's flooding or extreme temps. It's an extreme place. We're just keeping an eye on it."

We reached out to officials from the U.S. Bureau of Land Management. A spokesman said he didn't know anything about the bugs. "It is out in the middle of nowhere," he said.

Curley has a few ideas about the infestation:

There are two main theories: One is that all the spring and summer rain has hatched critters that lie dormant, or usually come to life at a different time of year. Or maybe they hitchhiked in on a load of wood from somewhere. 

The festival is expecting 70,000 people this year.


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