The departure of the 17-year cicadas has Washington talking.

We celebrated their emergence in early May with poem and song. We immortalized them in Lucite, pinned them to corkboards, collected them in jars and baggies, rescued them from harm, wore them in our hair, found them in our shirts, used them for art projects and played with them like little self-propelled toys. We were seized with hysteria and disgust.

We -- and our pets -- ate them. We gave them premature burials in time capsules. We marveled at their mysteries, their sounds, their apparent obliviousness. Now we say ta-ta cicada.

"They're fading out fairly rapidly," says Smithsonian entomologist Gary Hevel. The eggs will hatch over the next few weeks. Little nymphs will jog up and down branches for exercise, then tumble to the ground and dig and dig. Eighteen inches down, they will attach to roots, Hevel says, and suck on sap until 2021.

"Who will be here?" asks reader Frances Temme. "Probably not my dog; inevitably additional family members will have died; I might well be gone."

But we will remember the Gen X insects. "In a city where workaholics brag about their long hours and overtime, where dating and mating must be fit in around congressional hearings, overseas trips and dual work schedules," reader Lois Steinberg observes, "it was a pleasure to see the power of nature take over."

Later, cicada.