Listen: When our viewer Jasmin Allison Carroll sent us this picture, we started to panic.
Nearly everyone in the Tri-State has already experienced at least one cicada invasion in their lifetime, and even enthusiastic entomologists would probably not say that seeing swarms of the big-eyed bugs is their favorite thing. They're big and meaty enough to create a nasty splatter when squished, they're loud enough to keep you awake at night, and they're fearless enough to dive-bomb directly into your face if the mood strikes them.
Still, despite our fear, we endure. We know we've got the lifespan advantage, so we wait for them to disappear beneath the cursed soil from whence they came.
A snow-white cicada with red eyes, though? That worried us. We're journalists, not wildlife experts -- we started to worry that this year's premature members of Brood X might have undergone some kind of genetic mutation, turning them into super-bugs that would stick around all year long and eventually enslave the human race.
We weren't ready to accept Rise of the Dawn of the Planet of the Cicadas, so we decided to do some research.
What did we learn? There's no reason to worry about "albino" cicadas you spot around town. They're not mutants, alien hybrids or products of Umbrella Corporation experimentation.
They're just teenagers.
Baby cicadas, called nymphs, spend their childhoods underground, molting out of old skins as they grow, and emerge into the world once they’re old enough to mate. Once they’re above ground, though, there’s one last molt left between them and adulthood.
A periodical cicada that’s just emerged from its nymph skin will be white, like the picture that Jasmin sent us. Its color will quickly darken as its final exoskeleton hardens, and it’ll enjoy its few weeks above ground before dropping dead and leaving behind a new clutch of nymphets.
So if you see a white cicada in your yard, there’s no reason to worry. They might look a little gross, but hey -- we’ve all been teenagers. It’s hard to not look gross at that point in your life.