Bugs? What bugs?


The skies were full of smoke today
The skies were full of smoke today

We’re a little out of words, because Black Rock City lost a good friend yesterday, and hearts are heavy. The pictures will have to do the heavy lifting.

But we’ll say this: The bugs are gone.

Ok, 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.

Yes, it was true, unknown bugs of mysterious origin showed up by the thousands or millions in Black Rock City over the past week, but the heat and the dryness have taken their toll. Larger insects came along, too, and there were plenty of smaller bugs for them to eat. Yesterday morning, we saw a small flock of birds down by the Depot, no doubt drawn to the area by the plentiful insect diet.

Please, though: The birds were not massing in Hitchcock-ian numbers. They did not line the trash fence, nor did they swoop and dive on us as we entered the commissary.

This is Stinger. You might remember the picture of her back covered with bites. She's better now. She's also the lead rigger for the shade structure at the Center Cafe, and a ship captain. She's more than bugs, brother
This is Stinger. You might remember the picture of her back covered with bites. She’s better now. She’s also the lead rigger for the shade structure at the Center Cafe, and a ship captain. She’s more than bugs, brother

They were simply here to play their part in the natural order of things. The smaller get eaten by the larger. The heat ended the infestation as quickly as it appeared, and the inches-high mounds were blown away by the desert wind.


There were none at the Depot, none at the Center Café, none at the Man Base, none at the Temple, none at any of the places we visited a couple of days ago.

It’s all over. You can resume your packing. Sure, throw in some bug spray, because you never know, it could happen again.

There was a seagull out at the Temple site today. Two, in fact, but one flew away as we approached
There was a seagull out at the Temple site today. Two, in fact, but one flew away as we approached

(And it could rain. It could flood. It could be freezing cold or blisteringly hot. We could get dust storms. Winds could reach 100 mph. We could be stranded for days. And listen: We are not making any of this up. We are not hyperbolizing. Be prepared. Always be prepared when you come here. It’s called radical self reliance.)

It was pretty interesting, though, to NOT be a part of the media yesterday, but also to be a part of it, as the story. Just from the things we saw or heard about, our little report on bugs in the desert got picked up by CNN, SFGate, Gawker, Mashable, Rawstory, NBC News, Vanity Fair, Channel 4 in San Francisco, just to name the ones we

It was fascinating to see how the different outlets presented the same basic information, mostly based on the same slim details provided here. We were soooooo happy not to be a part of the 24-hour news cycle, where the identical facts are hashed and rehashed and then regurgitated again. We feel sorry for the lost souls who have to write and rewrite the sketchiest outlines of a story into headlines they hope will grab an eyeball or two. (Attn: lost souls: we say that lovingly; we’ve done the same or worse ourselves, many times.)

Loren out at the Temple had a good idea for all the critters: A petting zoo
Loren out at the Temple had a good idea for all the critters: A petting zoo

Most of the outlets used quotes just plain lifted from the blog. This was supplemented with Twitter posts and pictures. There was little, if any, additional reporting. Most of the outlets also used the photos we posted here, without asking permission (those that did ask were denied, according to Communications Director Megan Miller). By the way, the photos are copyrighted, with rights jointly held by me and the Burning Man organization.

We’d be assembling a legal team if we didn’t already know that the normal and customary fees for what would likely be called “freelance submissions” range all the way from nothing to about fifty or a hundred bucks. You don’t get the big money doing journalism.

So what the hell. It’s fine. It was a good story and lots of fun, even if it did throw a scare into people. It wouldn’t be the first time that’s happened.

But it was also predictable. After all, it’s Burning Man. You know, naked hippies high out of their minds, running around looking for the next person to have sex with. Then you add pestilence, and by damn god you’ve got a Biblical tale. God hath wraught fire and brimstone down upon Sodom and Gomorrah. It was a hard one to pass up. And very few outlets did.

(My favorite piece appeared on NBC.com. It used the same set of quotes and attributed them to “Burning Man organizer John Curley.” Burning Man organizer! Hey, I should get a raise!)

The Spires work goes on and on
The Spires work goes on and on

Anyway, the storm has passed. Little has changed. Life goes on.

And we don’t need any stinkin’ fire wraught upon our heads. We have our own fire, and plenty of it.

Loren out at the Temple had a good idea. “We’re gonna have a petting zoo,” she said. “Granted, it’ll be mostly insects.” But they could also include ravens, scorpions, black widow spiders, rabbits, seagulls and at least one owl, because we’ve seen all of them out here or in town in the past few weeks.

Nature. We love it.

And watch for the headlines appearing soon.

When the sun starts getting low in the sky, one of the best things to do is visit the Gate folks manning Point One. The other evening it was Clarity, Kiote, Tray and Kitty
When the sun starts getting low in the sky, one of the best things to do is visit the Gate folks manning Point One. The other evening it was Clarity, Kiote, Tray and Kitty
Choose a path and follow it
Choose a path and follow it


About the author: John Curley

John Curley (that's me) has been Burning since the relatively late date of 2004, and in 2008 I spent the better part of a month on the playa, documenting the building and burning of Black Rock City in words and pictures. I loved it, and I've been doing it ever since. I was a newspaper person in a previous life, and I spent many years at the San Francisco Chronicle. At the time I left, in 2007, I was the deputy managing editor in charge of Page One and the news sections of the paper. Since then, I've turned a passion for photography into a second career. I shoot for editorial, commercial and private clients. I've also taught a little bit, including two years at UC Berkeley's Graduate School of Journalism and a year at San Francisco State University. I live on the San Mateo coast, just south of San Francisco in California.

52 Comments on “Bugs? What bugs?

  • E says:

    Thank you for your honest reporting. Every year there is something that spooks people preparing for this outdoor thing in the desert. Last year it was hail the size of golf balls and lots of rain. Some years it’s been dusty. I like to think nature follows the principle of immediacy.

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  • Jef stott says:

    The media frenzy has much in common with the insect infestation- Ephemoral, temporary and ultimately of little consequence. But during its maelstrom it was captivating and consuming. Grateful it has all returned to the silence of the desert.

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  • Tanning says:

    That’s super awesome! Now if only the cockroaches infesting BMorg would just dry up and blow away we’d be batting 1,000.

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  • Delanman says:

    Great piece. Write more for all of us Burners who can’t make it this year.

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  • Chance says:

    Why is it that some of the DPW women don’t have bullrings? I thought it was part of the uniform.

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    • Shauna says:

      After 2 or 3 years with DPW most have very little of their septum left to pierce. The new thing is branding iron tattoos of the BM brand logo on their asses, but you don’t want to see those until after the infections die down after about a year or so.

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  • Robyn Ama says:

    “And Moses said
    To Pharoah…”let my burners GO!” The pestilence came and left, the Burners parted the sea of dead bugs…. And travelled to the desert!

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  • Jerry says:

    Great article! Wish we could be there this year. Check out our latest write-ups on .

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  • Pooh Beat says:

    Damn…now I packed all this lambs blood I have no use for.

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  • kenna says:

    Definitely ask for a raise.

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  • Endless Fun says:

    Even my mom in Iowa asked about the bugs!! Media had a field day with this, but thankfully we have you, John, to share the real facts. Always love your pre-burn posts John, thank you for all you do for our community!! <3

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  • Snoopy says:

    This is the best news I’ve heard today! In order to keep the bugs from returning, is BMorg or BLM going to delouse DPW? FYI, you can’t just shave down there because the eggs live on your skin, you need the treatment medication.

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  • Lice says:

    Oh there ain’t no bugs on me
    There ain’t no bugs on me
    There may be bugs on some of you mugs
    But there ain’t no bugs on me

    Well, the Juney bug comes in the month of June
    The lightning bug comes in May
    Bed bug comes just any old time
    But, they’re not going to stay

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  • Alan says:

    What there is a cockroach infestation @Bmorg?!!! ;b

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  • John says:

    You should start a new story to scare the crap out of folks and media…like millions of scorpions take over the Playa or something. lol make up some bullshit =)

    Thanks for the coverage John! Keep it going.

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  • roissy says:

    Curley, you get a %20 raise…
    What is interesting, five years ago this story and BM would not even been a blip on the meta’s radar. Plus most of the pictures and content I have seen were basically ripped off the web page…

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  • Dr. Bungee says:

    Nature gas a way of sorting things out. Big bugs eat little bugs, birds eat big bugs… I’ve seen plenty of cat like creatures on playa over the years, so on it goes.
    The forces are at work in other ways. Whenever a group grows too large for it’s habitat, there takes place a “culling of the herd” I believe we have already lost some of our less dedicated Burners.
    Only the string survive.
    Burn brightly my friends.

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  • Daniel says:

    So, I guess I should leave my Big Bug Ray-Gun blaster at home when I leave for the Playa? I’m glad to read that the insect infestation is gone. I wonder what other interesting, existential challenges await us there?

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  • Eric says:

    if you go beyond the edges of the playa and into the sagebrush you can find horses running wild, cows at springs, and the traces of the native people that lived there for so long. the perception of the environment there as hostile is fair but it isn’t as if it is unforgiving.

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  • Claire says:

    Sorry for your loss:(
    What a refreshing post. Makes one ponder the meaning of all those bugs showing up and which ones will stay on for the festival. These little creatures have messages even if they r annoying at x’s . Getting excited now 7 days till we’re there. Thanks to all who have gone ahead to start creating the magic :)

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  • Jim Tierney says:


    Gerlach, NV – As reported by the Burning Man blog, apparently the bug infestation is over, so it’s back to the wild sex parties as usual.

    “After all, it’s Burning Man. You know, naked hippies high out of their minds, running around looking for the next person to have sex with.”, said Burning Man spokesperson John Curley.

    The blog also included pictures of scantily clad women totting around large vibrators. It wasn’t clear if there were choco tacos involved.

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  • Chris Petrell says:

    I’m quite happy the bugs are gone. Being a year around resident of Gerlach, I’ve gotten to know alot of various seasons of biting critters as they all seem to find me. I have a personal war against them, and when I saw the massive amounts of them last weekend I truly thought in my mind how to get out of work and off playa that day. On another note it’s sad to have lost Spoono in more ways then one for me. Spoono, Pappa Pete and Myself we’re all BM workers and heart patients last year. All of us spent time in the hospital, and all spoke about it and “compared” notes often. He will be missed. Rest in Peace Scott.

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  • Nita Dunn says:

    Looked like karma for the poor treatment of the dance music community this year.

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    • roissy says:

      The dance music community is just fine, nobody who not there will not be missed…
      There is always someone who slips into their place and in most cases does a better job… The music is dead, long live the music….

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  • Philarious says:

    Thanks for the update! Aren’t there any picures of the bugs or the dining birds.
    Can’t you guys report from the playa and make up some funky stories, that the media could pick up and spread. I heard something about a camel pest or how about cracking playa with cracks too deep to see the bottom? And what’s that thing about disappearing temple builders? Man that place ist scary. Come prepared, you’re right!

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  • gerlach says:

    We were kinda hoping you would all get malaria and never come back.

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  • Joy says:

    So sorry for your loss and the loss to brc as well.

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  • Samuel Mercado says:

    I’ll be performing a wedding at the Temple Wednesday at sunset. Come by and take in the love :)

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  • Allyn McGillicuddy says:

    Thank you for the update John Curley. I miss page 1 but am glad to know there is not only heaven, after print journalism’s demise, but a sort of heaven, though it entails reporting on brief life (out, out brief candle!) after death of all other creatures in the Nevada desert…as a prelude to what happens next week.

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  • Zach says:

    Should have kept the story going… At least it keeps the riff raff away!

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  • Crunkykd says:

    No more bugs, great! But what’s this I hear about raining frogs!?

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  • Mapacho says:

    Just a fair warning … back in my youth the Forest Service fire service was known to high grade out folks traveling in the West and put them on the fire lines… guessing we’re getting close to that system again… Pick your road wisely to BM if you’re not the hero type…..

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  • The Baron says:

    The bugs are gone? Time to redesign our camp’s food plan.

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  • BMF says:

    The alleged “green coin-shaped bugs” look like green stink bugs. They are a pest that has most likely been imported on soybeans and other grains. There are pheremone sprays that can be used to control them, although the time-tested method of picking them up and dropping them into a bucket of kerosene still works.

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  • Bill Conway says:

    Umm…mysterious bugs of unknown origins, or something that any entomologist could have predicted?

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  • Nakisa says:

    Hugs, no bugs

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  • Little monkey says:

    Hey John! Thank you for sharing! As a wildlife biologist burner I just wanted to say that there actually aren’t “seagulls”. There are only gulls. No egotistical maniac here…just a crazy birder who wants the record set straight on all fronts. Love you guys!

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  • Foxfur says:

    Sounds like I’ll have to use a squirt gun on the bug zapper to get any entertainment out of it now…

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  • Burner if days gone by says:

    ‘Coin shaped’, ‘Green Stink bug’. Possibly a ‘True bug’. From the order Hemiptera. Mostly plant piercing insects. However many Hemipterans landing incidentally on a person sometimes will defend themselves, or ‘test’ determine if plant juice is to be had. All harmless. Except for the Kissing Bug or Conenose Bug. Besides the Conenose bug, bug bites can sometimes develop a secondary infection. Sure would like to know the ID of your hard-shelled visitors. Very interesting. They may have been caught in an atmospheric current, and the playa is where they ‘dropped out’.

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  • Tophat says:

    That is one awesome Seussian tattoo that Loren is sporting.

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  • ChocoCat says:

    Glad the bugs are gone. Speaking of misreporting, hahahaha, despite the claims you may come across of ‘seagulls’ in places like Black Rock City, Nevada City, Nevada, California, Oregon, Washington, basically anywhere near the west coast of the USA, well, most of those reports are erroneous. There are no ‘seagulls’ on the west coast, those are gulls, possibly Western gulls.

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  • Gay-site-lano says:

    Ежегодно порноиндустрия приносит конечному клиенту порядком десятков тысяч порно фильмов. Станет конечно, что без повышенного спроса порноиндустрия пришла бы в кризисное имущество. Безусловно, выдумать сколько то необычное и интересное для разбалованных поклонников непомерно сложно, в тоже время ради этого существует целая полчища режисеров и постановщиков которые пытаются исполнить безгранично счастливый фильм.
    Редкость порно индустрии в часть, который порно фильмы не увидишь в кинотеатре, их можно понимать лишь в доме, будь то компьютер alias телевизор. Не стоит списывать беспричинно же и кабельное телевидение, которое круглосуточно крутят фильмы ради взрослых.
    Высокая соискание индустрия порно подразумевает и суд любителей, лопать даже такое направление домашнее порно. В котором, словно правило, студенты пытаются заявить о себе и заработать скромные финансы, разбавив содержание новыми ощущениями.
    С домашнего порно начинают многие порно актеры. Снявшись, будучи молодыми ребятами, они становятся заложнками ситуации. Отточеная внешние причина и обворожительные формы запоминаются многим, как постановление впоследствии успеха их повседневный устой уже не довольно такой ровно заранее: появляются фанаты, ко всему прочему и близкие начинают всматриваться если.
    Детальнее о книга ровно поменялась жизнь актеров на порно онлайн

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