Mystery of a Caterpillar

November 19, 2009 at 11:19 am | Posted in itchy fingers | 7 Comments
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The first time Itchyfingers saw this strange caterpillar was at the zoo. Spotted this fellow munching leaf and was immediately drawn by its huge green lump.

Initially I had thought the big lump was the backside of the caterpillar,
especially when the other end looked like it was munching leaf

As the plant was kinda blocked among other plants, it was a bit tough to go nearer to take a closer look at the caterpillar…So I tried to move my  position and finally managed to take this picture. At that moment of time, I was just concerned about whether the picture would turn out sharp or not cos it was really a bit far to take a good closeup…

It was only back home on the computer screen that we realised that the big
green lump is the head after looking at the legs. The first three pairs legs on the
thorax are called the thoracic or true legs, which will develop into the adult legs of
butterfly. The other legs on the abdomen are called the pro-legs, which end in small,
hook-like suction cups called crochets. Since pro-legs don’t have segments or joints,
they’re not real legs. These disappear when the caterpillar metamorphoses into
a butterfly or a moth

Hmmm…now that is interesting cos that was the first time Itchyfingers saw this big headed caterpillar. We were curious to find out whose caterpillar was that but unfortunately couldn’t get the answer after seeking help from friends and searching online. All we found was that the caterpillar belongs to a moth, exactly which one we don’t know. But we found a beautiful picture of the caterpillar here. Someone commented that it is “Probably a nolid in the tribe Careini. Two moth species from Hong Kong in the genus Carea have this swollen thorax.” Itchyfingers tried looking under the keywords he mentioned but couldn’t find much information.

It was after a second encounter with this caterpillar that Itchyfingers finally found the name of this caterpillar.

I was having a leisurely walk with some friends at Sime Forest when one friend found this among the leaves. Must say she really have good eye sight… :p Actually we were looking for butterflies and insects that day.. hahah

an you see anything here? These were different leaves from the ones I
first saw the caterpillar

When I saw this guy I was so happy, cos this time his position was much better. We could go much nearer to examine it closely…too bad I don’t have macro lens with me…

The other end really looked like the head to me the first time I saw it…This
guy was much bigger (about 4cm) than the first one I saw

There are some white spots on the swollen green lump that really looked
like eyes…hahah

oo..nice red legs…hahah…The picture on this site shows that the big lump
is actually the thorax and not the head. So I think we shouldn’t be calling
it the Big-head caterpillar anymore, but the Big-chest caterpillar! Hahaha!

Back home, I relooked at the genus name from the comment made on the macro shot found earlier. I was more determined this time to find out the identity of this moth. At last, after combing through the net, I finally found similar pictures of the caterpillar which lead me to these information – this is the larva (or caterpillar) of Carea varipes (Superfamily Noctuoidea, Family Nolidae, Subfamily Chloephorinae, Tribe Careini). Larvae are large and obvious leaf feeders but have not been observed in large numbers, perhaps because of their own natural enemies. Pupation occurs in rolled or between touching leaves. But the moth doesn’t look very pretty…hahah…(more moth pic here). But the information points to the species from Hong Kong, so I am not sure if the ones in Singapore are the same…It should still be a Nolid moth caterpillar, but exactly which one…well, we will need more expert opinion then. Guess the mystery of the caterpillar is still half solved. 😦 Certainly hope to be able to learn more of this caterpillar/moth! Do drop Itchyfingers a note if you have more information to share! 😀

Also see related post:
> Seeing Double


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  1. Wow,, that was quite a strange little caterpillar.

    • Yes, it is indeed very strange-looking. Itchyfingers wish we know how it looks like as a moth! :p

  2. Hei im Egi from Indonesia!
    Im so glad to found this pictures you took, I was browsing for animals photos to show my 8 years old daughter. Told her when I was a kid, i often climb trees and one of em is rose apple trees. In some particular season we will always found many of this kind of caterpillar staying in the tree. Me and my friend love em cause they are so cute with the big green head and such a small body. We call it ” ulat kepala bagol ” means ” big heaed caterpillar ” But seems like i dont see them anymore these days 😦

    • Hi Egi,

      Thanks for dropping by Itchyfingers. Which part of Indonesia are you from? Yes, this is one of the unusual caterpillars we see in our nature area, but not sure if they are common or not cos they are so tiny and you gotta be so sharp to see them! 🙂

  3. becarefull its spit acid alot

    • hahah….that one I am not sure, but certainly never heard of caterpillar spitting acid…

  4. Right moth family, but different genus and species. It is Careades plana, they like eating gollden pendas and broad leafed Melaleuca in Cairns at least.

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