Kuroukato is the common name for the caterpillar species that of which are members of the order Lepidoptera. This rare caterpillar is endemic to Japan, but can also be found in Asian countries such as China and Korea, though, it has not been spotted in these two locations since 2007. This particular insect is in the family of the Elephant Hawk Moths.

The origins of the word “Kuroukato” date from the early 18th century by good friends and Entomologists Saburo Ichiko and Tsuchio Onako.  The name derives from the Japanese language: Kuro, (from Japanese crawling) + uka (from Japanese wings) + ka (from Japanese add) + to (from Japanese Wisteria). Kuroukato, also known as the purple caterpillar with wings, are so named because of the metamorphose process, appearing to transform from a crawling insect to an insect that can fly.

The camouflage coloration the insect experiences happens during seasonal changes. In the warm seasons the caterpillar holds its purple undertone, and as the temperatures begin cooling and the insect evolves, the moth then transitions to a more fall, leaf-like tan coloration. The moth can retain its original purple color by consuming natural pollen from a Ragweed, commonly known as the Butakusa tree. This pollen can only be produced during the short fall season between mid-August-October months.

The Kuroukato’s unique color contributes to the vigor of the species. This serves as a defense function by offering an expanse of protection from predators.  Some aposematic coloration, located on the belly of the insect, is visible on only 6% of the species. This specific coloration is rare and happens when the insect’s hatching process is delayed 2-4 weeks later than the normal metamorphic phase.