Dear cicadas: Before you buzz off, some things you missed

Story highlights

17-year cicada variety known as Brood II has been invading several states

These cicadas were last seen in 1996, when things were different

Here's some things missed after 17 years in hiding

What would you add to this letter? Share your thoughts in the comments

CNN  — 

Dear cicada friends,

We know you probably don’t speak English, but we humans can’t really buzz that well, so this letter will have to do.

The last time we saw your cicada variety, known as Brood II, emerge was in 1996. Other broods have come and gone since then, but we’re still glad to see you. You were still in your larval stage in ’96, so you probably don’t remember. Now, you’re rising to the surface and having a grand ol’ party. So much so that CNN is tracking readers’ reports of your locations and listening to recordings of your buzz.

We humans have a hard time imagining what it must be like to go into hiding for years on end and leave your fate in the hands of the world. Who knows what the world will be like when you next emerge 17 years from now? Will it be a mundane place or a strange post-apocalyptic scene?

That’s why we’re so in awe of you. You are like living time capsules, and you take it in stride. Life is one big, buzzing party for you.

Open Story: See where readers are finding cicadas

But all good things must come to an end, and before you go, we’d like to bring you up to speed on the things you’ve missed since you were last here. It’s probably not pleasant to think about, but we want to reach you in time.

We were inspired to write you this letter because of a heartfelt iReport we received from Janie Lambert of Hughesville, Maryland. She talked about many events that have happened in the past 17 years. Like your species, her family has hatched a new generation of offspring during this time.

Your buggy brains aren’t really geared for philosophy, but here’s a grub of an idea: the tragedy of your lives is a metaphor for our own.

It’s too bad you barely missed Baz Luhrmann’s “Romeo + Juliet,” with Leonardo DiCaprio and Claire Danes in the leading roles. It came out in fall 1996 – well after you would have ducked into the ground. And don’t forget about “Tromeo and Juliet,” which also came out around that time.

Mike Myers in "Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me."

Bet you would have related to William Shakespeare’s infamous star-crossed lovers, who were destined to shack up and then die while still in their teens.

We think you would also have a special appreciation for the “Austin Powers” movie trilogy, which kicked off in 1997. It features a British spy who is cryogenically frozen in the 1960s and then emerges in the 1990s with a strong mating instinct. Strip away the bad teeth and Union Jack decor, and your stories are much the same.

Read about cicada life cycles and other broods

Culture shock was a big part of the “Powers” films, and you’re probably feeling like a Rip Van Winkle as well. Surely you must be wondering where you can get some pogs, or the latest dramatic twists and turns in the Van Halen line-up. Radiohead released several acclaimed albums (including “OK Computer” and “Kid A”) as well. Heck, there was even a Woodstock anniversary concert in 1999.

Hanson at an award show in Los Angeles in April 1998.
Isaac, Taylor and Zac Hanson in California, in May.

A few years later, an electronic band called Cicada formed in the UK. Their self-titled debut album (2006) will make your feelers twitch. It includes a song called “Cicadas” that intermingles rhythmic buggy noises with sweet synthetic sounds.

You skipped most of the boy/girl bands – just barely. The Backstreet Boys put out their self-titled album in June 1996 and *NSYNC rose soon thereafter. The Spice Girls released their debut album “Spice” worldwide by 1997, and Britney Spears reached stardom status in the late 1990s. The Jonas Brothers, Miley Cyrus, Justin Bieber, Selena Gomez … there’s so many.

The brothers Hanson MMMBopped their way onto the charts in 1997 when they were just nymphs. They continued to put out albums after they finished molting, and now generate almost as much buzz as you do – and have produced nearly as many larvae.

Oh, and we almost forgot to mention “Star Wars”! There are now three prequels to come before the first “Star Wars” (that was really Episode IV), and there’s this character called Jar Jar Binks and … never mind. You’ve had to digest so much already.

Moviegoers get ready for the first "Star Wars" prequel.
Scene from the 2000 Florida election recount.

If you’re still unsure about what happened in the 1990s, BuzzFeed is totally on it. Any relation? They’re about as cicada-like as humans get, constantly searching for whatever happens to be buzzing at any given time. The writers are in their laboratories concocting nostalgia for the 2000s as we speak.

But we don’t want to bug you with too much popular culture. There’s also plenty of serious history that you’ve missed.

We’ve been through five presidential elections now, and three presidents. The truth is, maybe you’re better off not having seen footage of the September 11 terror attacks, or the wars that began afterward. You also conveniently missed the biggest burst of the housing bubble, or running the risk of getting laid off during the Great Recession. You can’t bring most liquids through airport security anymore, and the NASA space shuttle program as we knew it has ended.

In 1999, the technology world fretted over the Y2K bug, in which a date-formatting issue threatened to bring down computer programs everywhere. Concerns about serious problems seemed largely unfounded when 2000 finally rolled around.

Cicadas should also be aware that the “New Beetle” was released by Volkswagen in 1998, which in turn renewed humans’ desire to drive a bug.

In the world of devices, the BlackBerry device is still consumed in its addictive CrackBerry form, but plenty of two-leggers are using smartphones and tablets with touchscreens. (You don’t have hands, so you might need a keyboard that you can tap with your legs.)

Tom will forever be in our extended networks.

You fast-forwarded through the meteoric rise of the World Wide Web, and the spider-like reach of social media. You missed complaining about several Facebook layout iterations and being friends with that guy named Tom on MySpace in the 2000s. You can still be friends with him now, but it’s just not the same.

The predictable backlash toward spending too much time online works to your advantage, because you’re well-equipped for it. You spend just about all your time in the out-of-doors, happily buzzing away and doing your thing until your time comes.

Dying cicadas spotted in Staten Island

You’re probably not worried about all these things that bipeds are always fussing about, but we just thought we’d let you know.

Maybe there’s a few things we’re missing out on, as well.

If there’s any consolation, it’s that other broods will return in the coming years, albeit in varying places and at different intervals. Brood III, Brood X, you name it. But there’s only one Brood II.

Until we meet again with your descendants 17 years from now, let’s all say goodbye and farewell.

Buzzing off,

The People of Planet Earth

“Bzzz zzzzz zzzzzz zzzz bzzzzz bzz”

What would you add to this letter? Are there any important events that stand out to you? Share your thoughts in the comments area below. Follow @CNNLightYears on Twitter for more science news