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LISLE, Ill. (AP) — It was late morning when The Morton Arboretum’s Senior Horticulturist Kate Myroup arrived at the Children’s Garden with a special guest: a rare, blue-eyed female Magicicada cassini cicada, spotted earlier in the day by a visitor.

A lucky few saw the cicada Friday in Morton, Illinois, before its release back into the world in suburban Chicago to join its red-eyed relatives, the more common look for most cicada species, as the 2024 cicada emergence gets underway.

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As the enclosure opened, the blue-eyed lady took flight into a tree. The unique bug then flew down to land on the pants of Stephanie Adams, plant health care leader. Intrigued young guests snapped photos.

“It’s a casualty of the job,” said Adams, who frequently is decorated with the bugs.

Floyd W. Shockley, collections manager of the Department of Entomology at the Smithsonian Institute, said the blue-eyed cicada is rare, but just how rare is uncertain.

“It is impossible to estimate how rare since you’d have to collect all the cicadas to know what percentage of the population had the blue eye mutation,” he said.

Periodical cicadas emerge every 13 or 17 years. Only the 17-year brood is beginning to show so far in spots as far north as Lisle, Illinois, where three different species are digging out of the ground, attaching to trees, shedding their exoskeleton and putting on a show.

“The appearance of them on the trees, just the sheer volume of them, looks like science fiction,” Adams said. “It’s definitely something to see.”

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