Every entomologist since the beginning of time has had someone come running up to her and yell “I saw an albino cockroach! It was amazing! Are they rare? Are they different? Is it a new species?!? I wish I had a camera! You would have loved it!”
Oh, to be young and naive again. You hear this exclamation, chuckle to yourself and move on. You see, this isn’t an unusual occurrence in the least–in fact, every single cockroach goes through this “albino” stage several times throughout its adult stage.
Insects have their skeletons on the outside, so in order to get any bigger, they have to shed their exoskeletons and go through a vulnerable stage while they get bigger.
The exoskeleton is what gives most of these insects their coloring, as well. So when the exoskeleton is shed, the pigment is shed with it. As the new, bigger skeleton hardens, it darkens from white to brown or black, and the bigger, badder, no-longer-albino cockroach can go back to its insect-like ways.
These photos of a newly molted cockroach were taken by Ester Beatriz. Nice job, Ester!