What was promised as a romantic evening display under the glittering lights of 30,000 fireflies by a scenic Zhejiang lake resort turned into hours of staring at the blank night sky followed by a riot.
The no-show by the insects prompted a mob of angry tourists to march on the resort's management office and smash the doors and windows when they couldn’t get a refund.
The nearly 10,000 tourists had paid 30 yuan (HK$38) to see the fireflies show – some paid up to 180 yuan for scalped tickets – for opening night at the Xiang Lake plaza in Hangzhou city.
But after the scheduled 7.30pm start, the insects were nowhere to be seen, China News Service reported today.
After two hours of waiting, the tourists surrounded the lake management office in Xiaoshan district, demanding refunds and an explanation. They got more upset when the organisers provided neither.
Witnesses said some people began vandalising nearby exhibition facilities, according to China News Service. Pictures from the scene showed people smashing windows and kicking down the doors of what appeared to be lockers for tourists.
The low temperatures in Xiaoshan were likely a factor in the absence of the fireflies, which emit beams of light from their abdomen to attract mates and “flash” more in warmer weather. It was expected to be below 20 degrees Celsius over the next six evenings.
“We can live with the fact that no insects showed up, due to [the cold], but the organiser should have stopped selling tickets and offered us a refund,” the tourist said.
According to a report on Friday in Dushi Kuaibao, a tabloid owned by Hangzhou Daily Press Group, the event organiser has cancelled the firefly show and visitors can claim refunds in the next 10 days.
Wild fireflies are typically spotted late at night in July and August at parks and in rural areas where there are no crowds.
When the event in Xiaoshan was announced before the holiday, many internet said it would be cruel to bring 30,000 fireflies on a 10-hour journey from a Jiangxi farm to Xiaoshan Lake.
Some said releasing the bugs into a strange environment would kill them as they were sensitive to temperature, noise and light.
Last July, a forest park in Hunan province released 15,000 fireflies but the insects were deterred by the crowds’ noise and camera flashes, which also nearly caused chaos among disappointed tourists.
The same month, Qingdao’s Zhongshan Park also released 10,000 fireflies but more than half of the insects died after three days.