Burning Man events are marked by a variety of artistic expressions.

Burning Man events are marked by a variety of artistic expressions.

A perceived pagan worship event that’s set to kick off in the coming days has just been hit with a massive infestation of insects, surprising participants and organizers who say the bugs could very well pose a health hazard to festival-goers.

The event, the Burning Man, is an annual affair in the Black Rock Desert in northern Nevada, that last year, drew 68,000. Its website touts its 10 main principles, as espoused by co-founder Larry Harvey in 2004.

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Among: “Radical self-reliance” and “radical self-expression,” making the organization the target of religious folk who say the event is nothing more than a huge pagan worship draw.

“The reality of the Burning Man is much closer to worship of the gods of the underworld than it is to Woodstock,” wrote one blogger, at the Now the End Begins website. “Every manner of perversion and occultic practice is on open display during the annual Labor Day weekend extravaganza. This is Old Testament Bali worship on overdrive.”


And another blogger with the website, Jesus Is Savior, pointed to past “clothing optional” Burning Man festivals that included New Age events for “neo-pagans, wiccans, transvestite entertainers, curiosity seekers and old hippies … to go to trance, perform rituals, burn sacrifices to deities, fornicate and otherwise ‘express’ themselves.”

This year’s event runs Aug. 30 through Sept. 7.

But it’s been tainted by the strange appearance of thousands of biting bugs, the swarming of which have been photographed and posted on several social media sites in the past few days. And the Burning Man blog confirmed their existence.

“You may have seen the bug rumors in the Internet,” wrote John Curley, on Burning Man blog. “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.”

He went on, pointing to the sheer oddity of the swarms.

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“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,” he wrote. “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.”

bug tweet

Curley did offer a quasi-explanation of the bugs’ presence: “We don’t know where they came from, but 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. Or maybe, as Shade postulated out at Man Base, there’s a Johnny Bugseed making the rounds at night, sprinkling them anywhere and everywhere.”

The insects have been identified as stink bugs, which emit a strong, unpleasant odor, and as possibly mosquitoes or seed bugs.

“These guys also release a terrible smell and they like to poke their probiscis into people’s skin,” reported Gizmodo. “Which hurts. But they’re actually not biting or attacking. A probiscis is more like a long, hollow tongue. These are desert bugs and they look for water everywhere, including in your skin.”


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