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October 11, 2022

Experience the life and times of the Chequered Copper butterfly

New AR and VR work ‘Herding Caterpillars’ lets you see a symbiotic relationship between ants and caterpillars unfold in the Adelaide Park Lands from your smartphone.

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  • Words: Sophie Holder
  • Pictures: Johnny von Einem

For Rosina Possingham, Herding Caterpillars, a five-minute immersive VR experience taking place at the State Library, has been a labour of love and an extensive collaboration between Adelaide creatives.


Herding Caterpillars
6—16 October
AR & VR experience
Multiple locations, Adelaide 5000
More info

Throughout the digital work, which is prefaced by a welcome to Country by Uncle Mickey Kumatpi Marrutya O’Brien, participants will see firsthand the life of the Chequered Copper butterfly, from egg to adulthood, and their important friendship with ants.

As we go about our days in the CBD, we tend not to think of the many symbiotic relationships that take place in the Adelaide Park Lands surrounding us, but the hope is for Herding Caterpillars to leave its participants wiser.

“It is the lifecycle story of the Chequered Copper butterfly,” explains Rosina Possingham, creative director of the project.

“It takes you from this hatching of this egg, where it starts, and it has four ants that herd it and guide it to the Oxalis [Perennans] plant (better known as yellow wood-sorrel).

“The caterpillar sprays out these pheromones and the ants think it is their larvae.

“So, it’s this symbiotic relationship between the caterpillar, the ants and this plant.”

While it may sound like a simple concept, the preparation and execution of the project was more complex than it seems.

“I’m not a 3D modeller at all, and I figured that out learning and working on this project,” Rosina says.

“I realised I couldn’t just download these 3D models, and it was an enormously huge job.”

The Chequered Copper butterfly in digital form. This image: Supplied


As a result, the project, which was made possible by CreaTech funding, has brought together creatives such as CDW Animation Studio, BEER Labs and Flinders University’s The Void.

These combined creative forces joined with Rosina’s extensive history in photography and graphic design, as well as her more recent learnings through a four-week residency at The Void and her first attempt at AR, The Park Lands Project.

The impressive animation is coupled with extensive scientific research from Gerry Butler, chairman of the Butterfly Conservation SA, and images by Greg Coote.

For Rosina, the project was born out of her involvement in The Void at Flinders University and inspiration from a play she saw.

“I was dreaming about making this Park Lands-based virtual reality world, but instead of doing the whole world I just focussed on this one performance play,” she says.  “It had five actors in it, and it went for five minutes.”

The original play, also titled Herding Caterpillars, was created by Jacqui Hunter, in collaboration with Gerry Butler alongside the lead actor, Steph Daughtry, who now features as the caterpillar and butterfly in the AR and VR experiences.

Find the caterpillar at the Nature Festival hub, out front of the State Library


Participants will experience the butterfly from its beginnings as a caterpillar, and witness how the ants protect her along the way.

The journey of the caterpillar will be shown in two different mediums, with the AR experience, which kicked off on 6 October as a part of the 2022 Nature Festival and the VR experience which will take place from 14— 16 October.

Herding Caterpillars – The AR Experience is a self-guided experience that can be undertaken at any time between 6—16 October.

There are sculptures of each of the stages of the butterfly’s lifecycle across three locations in the CBD, as well as interactive AR accessible via your smartphone.

Herding Caterpillars – the VR Experience will take place at the State Library from  14—16 October.

Tickets are $5 with multiple sessions running daily. For more information, visit the Nature Festival website.

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