There’s a plague on the playa.
As you might have seen in photos, there’s a biblical-sized swarm of bugs that are disturbing the hundreds of people preparing for this year’s Burning Man Festival, which is set to take place in just two weeks. Normally, a bunch of bugs wouldn’t be a huge problem, but these have been causing bodily harm to the workers.
Except it’s not just one type of bug, there are actually two sets, both of which are attracted to light and emit a foul odor. The green ones seen below on the tires are common stink bugs (Pentatomidae) that can be found almost anywhere in the US. It’s the smaller insects, the Nysius or seed bugs that are the biggest cause for concern.
Similar to cicadas, seed bugs have an exponential increase in population every few years, which is why there were no reports of any bugs like these in previous years. The seed bugs thrive in the desert, feeding off only the moisture in weeds and grasses. Unfortunately, these bugs don’t differentiate between plant life and humans, so when they land on skin, they pierce through looking for food, which can leave behind a mark.
As if the situation couldn’t get any worse, there have also been reports of people breaking out in rashes, which people originally thought to believe was a direct result of the seed bugs. But entomologist Douglas Yanega reported that the seed bugs who might have been transported from California were feeding off of mustard plants, and crushing the bugs releases small amount of mustard oil onto the skin to create burning and welts.