Taobao vendors aim to cash in on Chinese Valentine's Day with fireflies

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 16 July, 2013, 10:52am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 16 July, 2013, 11:45am

With Chinese Valentine’s Day, also known as Qixi festival, less than a month away, hundreds of Taobao vendors are selling live fireflies on China’s largest e-commerce market, hoping to cater to the needs of romance seekers.

The glowing insects, known for their ability to produce light primarily to attract mates, are apparently being marketed as a great gift idea by the business savvy. On Taobao, a seller listed one of the five “utilities” of fireflies as a way to boost “romantic atmosphere.”

“You can either release the fireflies with your girlfriend under moonlight or release them on wedding nights,” say the instructions. The seller also encourages buyers to use fireflies at children's bithday parties.

Fireflies are being sold for 3 to 5 yuan (HK$4 to HK$6) each on Taobao. Some shops require buyers to purchase a minimum of 50.

A Yunnan-based seller said on its Taobao site that all of its fireflies were raised on a farm in southeast China's Jiangxi province. The seller told the South China Morning Post that it "guarantees" the insects will survive shipping - even if they are transported to faraway Hong Kong.

But insect-lovers don’t agree. Hao Li, a Nanjing-based blogger for environmental group Greenbullet, said fireflies do die during shipping, despite claims by sellers.

“They should spend their short life in nature instead of dying in a sealed box,” she said. “And there are thousands of ways to be romantic without sacrificing fireflies.”

“Even if they survived the shipping, what are their chances of living afterwards?” she said.

On Weibo, Hao’s criticism was echoed by others.

“Don’t let curiosity kill innocent fireflies,” one said.

Taobao did not respond to a request for comment on Tuesday.