Ladies and gentlemen, we interrupt our program of blog posts to bring you a special bulletin from the nation’s capital, Canberra.

Giant bugs have been spotted in the parliamentary triangle area of Canberra and appear to be crawling over the Questacon building…

Building with coloured lights projected onto it

Giants bugs spotted on the Questacon building in Canberra

No, it is not an extraterrestrial invasion, nor even the set of a B-grade 1950s horror film—but Canberra residents out at night this week could be excused for thinking they had stumbled onto one.

These giant bugs are some of the many artworks being projected onto prominent buildings around the city at night as part of the Enlighten: see Canberra in a whole new light festival.

Insect specimens from CSIRO’s Australian National Insect Collection are playing a starring role in the festival—bee, Christmas beetle, cicada, jewel beetle and palm weevil specimens were among the models used for the projected artworks.

The artworks in question are the creations of CSIRO Science Art Fellow, Professor Eleanor Gates-Stuart. Working with 3D reconstruction and modelling specialist, Dr Chuong Nguyen of CSIRO’s Mathematics, Informatics and Statistics division, she has managed to transform the lifeless insect specimens into vibrant photonic reincarnations.

Chuong used a state of the art 3D scanner to capture the insect specimens in 3D and then Eleanor used the scans to create an animated, bug-inspired artwork. Large scale projection specialists, The Electric Canvas, worked with Eleanor to convert still frames from her animated artworks into architectural projections, and voilà… the results are stunning.

Woman and man sitting in front of a computer

Eleanor and Choung work their magic on the insect specimens

ABC’s 7.30 program interviewed Eleanor about her work as part of the festival and caught some footage of Chuong and the 3D scanner in action. Watch the segment here (from 2:35).

You can find out more about Eleanor’s work on her website.

The festival runs until Saturday 9 March, so if you’re in Canberra go along and check out the giant bugs while you still can.

And by the way, these bugs are completely harmless so don’t do a Kent Brockman and pledge your allegiance to the insect overlords…


  1. Thanks Chris – great post
    Lots of people can to the Enlighten 2013 event – in fact on the last evening (Saturday) it was absolutely crowded with such a brilliant vibe. The ‘bugs’ on Questacon looked amazing and certainly a crowd attraction. Special thanks to the Australian National Insect Collection ANIC and Electric Canvas.

  2. For your information, Christmas beetles (Anoplognathus spp.) belong to the Family Scarabaeidae some of which are severe insect pests of the sugar cane industry in Queensland. When in large numbers, Anoplognathus pallidicollois has been implicated in the decimation of crops due to the larvae eating the roots of the sugar cane plant. The CSIRO should not be featuring agricultural pest species on its website or in festival art activities.

    1. Hi Debbie, thanks for your comment. Our Australian National Insect Collection aims to catalogue all Australian insects. The collection is a valuable research resource that is used to find out about the insect biodiversity in Australia, understand our ecosystems better and to study things like how best to manage natural resources and pests. Those used in the projections were chosen because they were a particularly good shape for 3D construction.

    2. dont worry Debbie we will soon be eating them

  3. There should be greater regard for Australia’s agricultural industries when featuring insects in festivals (Enlighten festival). The Christmas beetle (Anoplognathus spp.) is in the Family Scarabaeidae which is a severe pest species of sugar cane crops in Queensland. Anoplognathus pallidicollis larvae eat the roots of plants & in large numbers can decimate the crop. The CSIRO should refrain from featuring agricultural pest species on its website.

  4. Very interesting Chris

Commenting on this post has been disabled.