What's That Bug? does not endorse extermination

Chinese Spotted Caterpillar with one spine
Location:  Wuhan, (Hubei)China
August 18, 2010 11:07 pm
Found this walking back to my apt in Wuhan China! I almost stepped on him as he was crossing the street! Drawing the question why does the caterpillar cross the road?! I can’t seem to find any info that isn’t in Chinese! Any help would be appreciated in identifying the big guy =)!!
Erin Thompson

Taro Hornworm

Hi Erin,
We got lucky because when we quickly read your letter, we thought the Sphinx Moth Caterpillar was photographed in Japan, so we searched the subfamily Macroglossinae on a Japanese Sphingidae website because this caterpillar reminded us of some of the
Eumorpha caterpillars in North America.  After some searching, we believe this is a Taro Hornworm, Theretra oldenlandiae, セスジスズメ, or Yushuang tian-er, a highly variable caterpillar that is pictured on the Japanese Sphingidae website in many of its color morphs.  You may also find it on the Sphingidae of the Western Palaearctic website which indicates its range as China, Taiwan, South Korea, Japan and Russia and has this highly detailed description of the stages of the caterpillar:

LARVA: Full-fed 60–80mm, width 11mm, horn 8mm. According to Bell & Scott (1937), in the first instar pale yellowish-green, with a short straight black horn. In the second instar, head yellowish-green, body dark green; eye-spots on segments 5 to 11 black above, yellow below; horn short, black with base yellow. By the third instar, head and body slate-colour. There is a dorso-lateral line of yellow spots on 3 and 4 on a background of deep black. Eye-spots with a round yellow pupil edged broadly with black, decreasing in size backwards. Horn black, a yellow spot on each side of its base. In the fourth instar, head slate-colour, body black. There is a slaty-black saddle-shaped shield on segment 2, with a pale yellow dorso-lateral spot on the front edge; spots on 3 and 4 as in Third instar; eye-spot on 5 and 6 with a round black spot in the middle of the yellow, on 7 to 11 of a darker shade of yellow. Horn long, thin, straight, black with a white tip and a yellow ring near the base.
In the fifth and final instar, head small, dull and smooth. Body dull and smooth, tapering fist gently then more sharply forwards from 8 and gently backwards from 8; segments 4 and 5 not much swollen. Horn straight, of medium length, thin, nearly cylindrical, tip truncate with a minute, low tubercle at each lateral angle; surface shiny, covered with very minute tubercles (Bell & Scott, 1937).
Head black; labrum canary-yellow; ligula black; basal segment of antenna canary-yellow, other segments whitish; mandible black. Body velvety-blackish on segments 2 to 4, rest of body plumbeous with short black stripes around the secondary rings. There is a dorso-lateral line of spots on 2 to 4, some yellow, some orange, continuing as a stripe formed of small grey dots, interrupted by the eye-spots, to base of horn. A broad, soiled, pale yellow subspiracular stripe is also present from 2 to 12, dotted with small black rings on 6 to 12. Eye-spots on 5 and 6 with a round black pupil in which lie two narrow, irregularly concentric rings of electric blue; this pupil edged narrowly above, more broadly elsewhere with orange, at the top and bottom of which is a crescent of electric blue; the whole edged broadly with velvety-black. On 7 to 11 the eye-spots are rather larger, pupil deep purple above shading to reddish-brown below, edged above and below with a crescent of electric blue, the whole edged broadly with velvety-black; a broad yellow band, crossed by black lines, lying along the front margin of segments 5 to 11, and passing over the dorsum from the dorso-lateral stripe. Horn black with the tip narrowly yellow or white; legs red; protege and claspers black. Spiracles elongate-oval, white with a broad fuscous band across the middle, and a narrow black rim (Bell & Scott, 1937).
The thin horn is movable in a vertical plane in all instars.  The larvae are mainly diurnal and prefer younger leaves, seedpods and flowerheads, often stripping growing shoots, particularly in the final instar. Several of the gaudy larvae can often be found on one small plant.

WOW you guys identified that very quickly! I was very surprised to see a response back when I rechecked my email! Thank you so much! I knew it had to be a moth!!
Thank you so much again for all the information; I will definitely be giving a donation for such a wonderful site!

What's That Bug? does not endorse extermination

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