The Burning Man bugs are gone -- here's how they disappeared

The internet was a buzz last week with news that two different types of smelly, biting bugs
had infested the land where the annual Burning Man festival is set to take place starting August 30.

While the pesky pest report initially came from the official Burning Man blog last Wednesday, the same blog was quick to dismiss the severity of the rumours on Thursday in a post titled “Don’t Believe The Buzz.”

By Friday, the blog claimed: “The bugs are gone. not every last stinking one of them, but pretty much. The swarms have dried up and blown away. People are working unmolested. Nature has run its course.”

So what’s the real story? It appears there was a severe infestation when organisers first arrived on the playa (as the desert land is called), with bugs “everywhere” that “bite, crawl all over you, and get up and in you,” according to official first reports.

But by the weekend, the bugs had apparently subsided.

The Burning Man blog wrote a new post on Saturday easing the anxieties of the 70,000 future festival-goers, assuring them that “the billion wood-boring beetles that descended on the Man’s legs at Man Base have evidently been exterminated”:

Burning Man will not be brought to you by Citronella and DEET this year. Behind us are the horrific fear-saturated nights of swarming green beetles, clouds of fluttering moths, biting flying ants, stinging noseeums and locusts so thick we had to don Hazmat suits and run in sheer terror from container to container to avoid being eaten alive. 

So what happened to the bugs? It could have been a few things…

We aren’t sure if it was the water trucks spraying vegan and gluten-free Malathion that did the trick. Or it may have been the initial deployment of our BRC Drone Bug Zappers that took out the first wave of stink bugs on Wednesday. They rose from the Depot, all flying in formation into the incoming swarms trillions thick, zapping blue and littering the playa with millions of twitching sizzling bug corpses. Some attribute our victory to Ranger Rico and his Roughnecks who were equipped with armour exoskeletons and flamethrowers that allowed them to capture the Brain Bug. We may never know, but somehow we prevailed. We witnessed, persevered and we survived.

Or, as entomologist and insect photographerAlex Wild explained to Gizmodo last week during the outbreak: “Desert species are prone to boom/bust cycles. [They] may just be passing through.”

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