AS the flickering globes float up into the night sky one after another, the effect can be magical.
But as pretty as they are, the craze for Chinese paper lanterns has overlooked one thing – what happens when they finally drift back to earth?
Farmers yesterday warned that they can be deadly for livestock after a prize cow died after eating the wire and paper remnants from one.
They also claimed the lanterns – basically a candle inside a paper globe – pose a fire risk if they land in a field of crops or on a thatched roof.
For many people, a summer party or wedding reception wouldn’t be complete without a line of gently glowing lanterns floating off into the distance.
Such is their popularity – and spooky appearance – that UFO experts say they account for 99 per cent of flying saucer sightings, and thousands are expected to be lit at gatherings over the festive period.
But for farmer Huw Rowlands’s herd of traditional Red Poll cattle, the effect of the fad has been devastating.
For months he has been finding the wreckage of burnt-out lanterns lying around his fields, then one of his most cherished cows, Sprite, keeled over in evident distress.
‘Her neck swelled up and she couldn’t eat or drink,’ said the 70-year-old, whose family have owned Grange Farm, in the Cheshire village of Mickle Trafford, since the 1940s.
‘The vet did what we could, but she died two days later.
‘We didn’t know what was wrong with her at first, but then we found one of these lanterns in her field, half-eaten.
‘She had swallowed some of the wire from it and it had pierced her oesophagus, leading to a very unpleasant death.’