Black Rock City, the location in the Nevada desert where the annual tech-fest takes place, will be held later this month, is overrun by thousands of flying, biting, crawling bugs, according to festival organizers.
“They’re everywhere. They bite. They crawl all over you. They get up and in you,” the organizer, John Curley, wrote on the festival’s official blog.
Curley said the bugs got into a woman’s t-shirt and settled in her bra, while others went through a welding mask.
“What’s going on? We don’t know. We don’t know how the little critters survive in the heat and the sun. All we know is that if you pick up some wood, you’re likely to uncover hundreds or thousands of the things,” Curley wrote.
Earlier this week, reports of the bugs first started surfacing on Twitter, with photos of swarms of bugs covering tires and carpets.
John Curley, writing on the Burning Man site, said:
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 …
We don’t know how the little critters survive in the heat and the sun. All we know is that if you pick up some wood, you’re likely to uncover hundreds or thousands of the things. They’ve blown up inches deep against the sides of the Commissary tent. They’ve covered the carpets at the Depot. They’re all over the Man Base. So it’s not a localized occurrence, it’s everywhere.
Organizers believe that that spring and summer rains hatched the bugs, once lying dormant in the desert.
According to Gizmodo, the bugs are called Nysius, or seed bugs. They spoke to entomologist Karl Magnacca who thinks there are actually two other species here along with Nysius, one of which is probably in the family Miridae. And according the report, these guys also release a terrible smell too.
Here’s a description of Nysius from the Sonoran Desert Naturalist field guide:
Several species of Nysius seed bugs range into the Sonoran Desert and are very catholic in their choice of seeds to feed upon. Weeds and grasses of many kinds with their often abundant seed crops can result in huge populations of these small, ca. 3mm, bugs. As bugs, they feed exclusively on liquid food through piercing-sucking mouthparts. When disturbed the bugs can release a noxious odor.
Seeds fed upon by seed bugs have reduced viability – a benefit for weed control. Once the weeds dry out, however, the bugs often move in mass in search of new food sources and may arrive at electric lights. Landing occasionally upon people they may seek moisture by inserting their proboscis into the skin – i.e. they bite and can be rather annoying! They soon move on and do not persist for blood is not their preferred meal. Vacant lots in Tucson, Phoenix, Scottsdale, Casa Grande and other desert cities can be quite weedy following wet weather which encourages these seed bugs to flourish. Keeping down weeds adjacent to dwellings and effective window screens are probably the best control strategy.
Besides the insects, the party on the dried up lake bed —known as the playa —already comes with its own set of discomforts as partygoers kick up the dusty ground which quickly turns into thick soupy mud. While Burners say that’s part of the attraction, the bugs are a real bummer for fest organizers.
But it does not appear that they pose any kind of health risk to the more than 70,000 people that will be showing up Aug. 30 through Sept. 7.
Nevada Department of Agriculture state entomologist Jeff Knight said that the problem may be resolved before the fest kicks off. “A lot of these things last only a week or two,” Knight told USA Today.
Burning Man organizers say they’re talking with health officials and that they’ve received no information on why Burners should be concerned about the bugs.
Also, images of bats have been circulating on social media. Department of Wildlife officials said that bats would likely be attracted to the large number of insects and bugs at the location.