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How to Prepare For Bugs at Burning Man 2015

Bugpocalyspe at Burning Man
Source: Toovia

Update: According to the official Burning Man Blog, the bugs are almost entirely gone

It’s all over. You can resume your packing. Sure, throw in some bug spray, because you never know, it could happen again… Always be prepared when you come here. It’s called radical self reliance.

The Everything You Need For Burning Man Guide left out a major thing for 2015 — the Bug Problem.

Again, we’ve got you covered.  The stuff listed here is cheap and useful even in the no-bugs scenario.  And it’s all via Amazon Prime, so you can prepare for bugs last minute.

So what exactly is going on?

Bugs at Burning Man
Stink Bugs and Seedbugs. (Source: BRC Champagne Lounge)

As of Thursday there were 3 types of bugs on the Playa:

  1. Green Stink Bugs.  Whether you actually find them stinky will vary based on your personal preference.  Some people like the smell, others can’t stand it, and in Laos they frequently eat them.
  2. Nysius Seed bugs that have been feeding on Mustard Seed.
  3. Mosquitos that are in close range to West Nile Virus occurrences.

A recent article in Gizmodo explains how it happened:

Due to unseasonably wet weather, the grass on the hills is unusually verdant, and that’s resulted in more bugs showing up in the desert than usual. There are green beetles called stink bugs (so-called because they emit a coriander-like odor when disturbed), mosquitos, and gnat-like seed bugs called Nysius

Current word on the street indicates that the problem has mostly died down.  However, I wonder whether the giant light explosion known as Burning Man could bring forth another bug exodus from neighboring areas, because all of these bugs are drawn to light.

The Challenge

Bugs on the Playa
Bugs on the Playa as of Monday. Source: Bryan Warner

These are not easy bugs to handle. The Stink Bugs are resistant to most insecticides.  People are reporting rashes from the Seed Bugs because of the noxious mustard oils they’ve been eating.

Now, if this were a normal festival, the bugs wouldn’t be too hard to deal with.  We could spray-kill and glue-trap the fuckers and call it a day.  But this is Burning Man, which means that we have to Leave No Trace and respect the natural environment of the Black Rock Desert.  Quite a challenge, but Burners are up to the task.

Keeping Bugs Away With Scents

Indigo Wild Lavender-Mint Aromatherapy Spray (4 fl. oz)
Indigo Wild Lavender-Mint Aromatherapy Spray (4 fl. oz)

Stink Bugs don’t like the smell of Lavender or Mint.  But Humans do!  So get yourself some Lavender Mint Water.

They don’t like Cedar Oil either, but it isn’t powerful enough to work outdoors, and a lot of people don’t like the scent.  And don’t get me started on Garlic Spray.  That’s just making yourself smell worse than the stink bugs. These bugs love fruity smells, so leave the strawberry perfume at home.

Repelling the Mosquitos is a solved problem.  Just get yourself a Mosquito Repellant Wristband and you’re set.

Mosbug Mosquito Repellent Bracelets, 5 pack
Mosbug Mosquito Repellent Bracelets, 5 pack

Dressing for the Occassion

These bugs have a preference for Blue and UV Light over other colors.  I figure this is the year to rock Orange El-Wire and let the bugs chase the hapless Blues around.

Onite 16ft. Orange El-Wire
Onite 16ft. Orange El-Wire

Also, the bugs prefer dark clothing to light, presumably because dark crevices are where they hunt for water.

Dealing with Rashes

Early Arrivals on the Playa have been reporting rashes, thought to be caused by the mustard seed the seed bugs are eating.  Witch Hazel and Aloe Vera are natural remedies for burns and welts of this type.

Thayers Alcohol-free Rose Petal Witch Hazel with Aloe Vera ~ 12 oz
Thayers Alcohol-free Rose Petal Witch Hazel with Aloe Vera ~ 12 oz

Just make sure that whatever you get, it doesn’t have a fruity smell to it.

Going Hardcore

Whether or not you think Bugpocalyspe is a possibility this year, you may want to go hardcore and bring a vacuum-powered Bug Zooka.  It’s 10X more powerful than a regular vacuum but costs only $23. And if the bugs aren’t a problem this year, you still have it for cleaning up MOOP.

Wyers Bug Zooka
Wyers Bug Zooka

P.S. Wired, are you seriously recommending that everyone bring a regular vacuum to Burning Man?  Ya’ll crazy.


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