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  1. #1
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    Default Brood Break with a queen cage vs. queen removal, any experience with this?

    Hello everyone.

    I plan on doing a brood break for my hives very soon to help with varroa management. I was either going to:

    1. remove the queen in a small nuc and let the hive requeen itself
    2. cage the queen on the frame for 2-3 weeks.

    For those of you using brood breaks to help with varroa management, any tips on which you think is the better way to go? Since I will have grafted queens to replace queens if needed, I don't necessarily need more queens. It would take a bit less equipment to give the brood break by caging the queen on the frame though.

    Please share with me your experiences.

    Thank you!

  2. #2
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    Default Re: Brood Break with a queen cage vs. queen removal, any experience with this?

    All my experience has been with the hive requeening itself. If I understand the process right once all the brood hatches out the female varroa are desperate for a place to lay. The first few cells laid in by the new queen draws all the varroa in where they then suffocate once capped.

    I'm not sure of this but I do give mine a couple brood breaks each year and I have no mite problems. I've never treated with anything.

    I would think 4 weeks would be a long time to keep a queen caged but since I've never done it I don't know.
    Woody Roberts

  3. #3
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    Default Re: Brood Break with a queen cage vs. queen removal, any experience with this?

    Thanks for your reply wolfer. Sounds like I should stick with my original plan and let them requeen themselves and use my grafted queens in the case they fail at requeening.

    With two or so brood breaks in place, when do you time them? I think I remember you saying that you pull the queen in the spring when you are ready to make splits. Do you make splits again with all the hives you have in the mid summer? Just curious if this allows for some extra honey crop for you or if this pretty much leaves honey to the bees.

    Right now I am more interested in propagation, but I would like to have some honey as well and have been managing my hives to that a couple are more focused on honey production and a couple are more my brood making donors for splits and nuc making.

    Thanks

  4. #4
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    Default Re: Brood Break with a queen cage vs. queen removal, any experience with this?

    Honey flow is pretty much over here by the end of June. I usually split again after June 21. If there is a fall flow it won't start until sept.
    With a little feed I can start a nuc here around aug 1 and get them in a single deep by winter.

    Other than swarm prevention I don't like pulling the queen during spring flow. I do it sometimes but I don't like it.
    I don't ever have swarms though.

  5. #5
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    Default Re: Brood Break with a queen cage vs. queen removal, any experience with this?

    @Wolfer,

    Not meaning to hijack, but would you care to expand on your statement that "you never have swarms"? I, for one, would like find out more why that might be. Attempting to avoid risk of swarming has obsessed me all spring and I am not satisfied that I understand what's best to do. And so far, knock wood, no swarms, but I don't think I'm completely out of the woods, yet! And I can see that this will be a major hurdle for me every spring. I would really like to hear about how you handle this. Perhaps you could start a new thread - I'd look forward to reading it.

    @Beelosopher,

    I'm not sure I completely buy into the brood-break-as-mite-suppressant-tactic. My three colonies were all cut-out from my barn walls last summer. Two of the three lost their queens in the cut-out hoo-haw and went queenless while they cooked on up on their own.

    Despite being swarms which had been temporarily without any brood during the swarm, followed by the queen-less period afterward, two of the three developed treatable mite numbers by September.

    And the two that needed mite treatment were the two that went through the extended broodless, queenless, period. The only colony that has never needed treatment is the one that still has the original swarm queen and has NEVER had a brood break. Of course my bees are mutts, or ferals, or escapees from some other apiary, so that might make a difference in their genetics. But being queenless with the ensuing cook-their-own-queen period and brood break didn't prevent them from needing treatment at all. Instead it just delayed it to the farthest margin time-wise of when is practical here in upstate NY.

    If you do this, may I suggest you monitor very closely particularly in August and Spetmeber so you can catch any slight uptick and deal with it before it gets too cold. (Unless you are planning on treating with OAV later after brooding shut downs for the year .)

    I know it's a popular approach (brood breaks as mite treatment) and if I had happened to try it on my low-mite hive I might have concluded it works like gangbusters. But that hive is somehow different from the other two, because it has never needed treatment, whereas the other two had this approach applied to them (without meaning to, it just happened) and they did need treatment.

    Does anybody know of any dissected pupal cells which showed that cell-starved foundress mites had crammed into them and perished as a result? Somehow, that seems hard to credit, at least to me.

    Enj.

  6. #6
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    Default Re: Brood Break with a queen cage vs. queen removal, any experience with this?

    Seems that a 3 week break followed by a treatment that effected phoretic mites would be a pretty good strategy...
    Last edited by mdax; 06-09-2014 at 03:33 PM.

  7. #7
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    Default Re: Brood Break with a queen cage vs. queen removal, any experience with this?

    Quote Originally Posted by enjambres View Post
    I'm not sure I completely buy into the brood-break-as-mite-suppressant-tactic.
    on its own, not sure I do either. This is one of several things I am trying out for an IPM approach. Regarding your comments about the swarms having more mites, I have read that when a give swarms naturally the mites seem to sense it somehow, so they ramp up mite reproduction as well. So in theory, the approach I use is to create an artificial swarm before the urge to swarm is actually there. Don't ask me to quote the study because I can't recall it. I think it was on beesource where I got the link to the study.

    Also remember, just because it is a swarm, does not mean it is a healthy swarm.


    Quote Originally Posted by enjambres View Post
    I know it's a popular approach (brood breaks as mite treatment) and if I had happened to try it on my low-mite hive I might have concluded it works like gangbusters. But that hive is somehow different from the other two, because it has never needed treatment, whereas the other two had this approach applied to them (without meaning to, it just happened) and they did need treatment.
    brood breaks, selective breeding (breeding with purported local tx free stock and bringing in purported non local tx free stock), (maybe drone comb freezing), unlimited brood nest, foundation less, (working on a transition to small cell) are a few of the things I am doing to attempt treatment free. I am not sure tx free is possible in my area without collecting a lot of swarms, which I don't have the time to chase down during regular hours. So while I am treatment free for now, I might have to do something if I see a spike in varroa raising them to the threshold levels.

    I will only know it is working if it is working

  8. #8
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    Default Re: Brood Break with a queen cage vs. queen removal, any experience with this?

    Quote Originally Posted by mdax View Post
    Seems that a 3 week break followed by a treatment that effected phoretic mites would be a pretty good strategy...
    what tx do you use?

    The treatment I am considering as a fall back plan is apiguard or possibly maqs, but I have heard maqs can be hard on queens sometimes.

  9. #9
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    Default Re: Brood Break with a queen cage vs. queen removal, any experience with this?

    I used Apiguard last September got the full course done on one, but only half on the other because that colony's numbers stayed low the longest. (And of course for the third, the one that never had a brood break, that colony's numbers were low, stayed low, kept low all winter, and remain low, often one or zero/day.) (No damage to either colony treated, I had no winter losses.)

    And I monitor a lot, even though lately in the midst of my anti-swarming efforts that part has had somewhat short shrift. Luckily the colony that has had the most anti-swarming divisions is the one with the biggest mite load, the mites are hopefully being suppressed by my splits from splits from splits "management" decisions. But I need to get back on the stick with my sticky boards.

    Regarding how mites may sense swarms and begin ramping up production which presumably could increase phoretic loads that travel with the swarmees: so then my bees undoubtedly have brought mites with them on arrival last spring. Can't argue with that. But after they were here they experienced the brood break when we cut them out of the walls.

    (And in my equipment planning over the winter I made sure to add a screen bottom board/sticky board to the list for every expected split and a few extra on hand in case I got new swarms to my barn walls. None so far, which is good since I'm at my hive-limit anyway. But if new bees arrive, they can expect to get monitored and treated, if necessary. I would not allow a feral colony to be that close to my now-managed hives. Bad ju-ju, I think.)

    Mites may also just be opportunistic and as the conditions and decisions within the hive shift over to increasing colony size in preparation for swarming they simply have more brood to parasitize and so their population grows along with the bees. I think the biggest risk for developing huge mite problems is actually later in the summer when the bee population begins to decline but the mites are just getting ramped up. Then the relative level of parasitization can get really out of whack.

    Since I got all my bees from self-presenting swarms I have no knowledge of their genetic make-up. Perhaps they are from a "survivor feral population" whatever that means.

    I rely on sticky-boarding as a continuous monitoring tool. And I treat when they reach the NYBeeWellness and Ontario TTTeam thresholds. But I am careful to avoid treating a hive that doesn't get there, which is why one of my three is still TF.

    I was only moderately impressed with the Apiguard. It reduced the daily mite drop numbers, slowly, but I saw no big mmite fall on the boards. I bought, but too late for use last winter, materials to use OAV-ing during the broodless period. I also bought some MAQS (but have not used it, yet) when the mite numbers on my biggest hive (the one I've been steadily splitting into pieces over the last few weeks) started to climb a bit this Spring. One possibility to use it might be in the way suggested by MDAX above: using half strength application to kill only the phoretic ones after a brood break to clean up the ones still in the pupa. (Unlike Apiguard which ran into too-low temps for efficacy last Fall, MAQS has a high-temp limit (80 F) for safety so that makes an important consideration for summer use, perhaps that's the source of reported queen problems with it.) At any rate, at the end of the brood break ALL the mites in the hive would by definition be phoretic and so vulnerable to any treatment that smacked down that life-stage, even if it would otherwise be less-than-effective in cleaning up non-phoretic mites. Timing would be crucial there, especially with a new queen just on the cusp of laying.

    All of my hives have unlimited brood nest since I don't care where the brood is. I have both foundationless (starting this year, not last) and a mix of Pierco plastic frames, Pierco foundation and tons of tied-in old comb that came from the historic feral nests in the walls. (They don't like that old comb very much, however. Their "best" drawn work is on Pierco plastic frames and, lately with foundationless.)

    I am not really convinced of the efficacy of "small cells". My bees are all naturally smaller than I see in the hives when I go hang out up at Betterbee's apiary. Their bees all look much bigger than mine. When I looked at their nucs and packages this Spring, I worried that my bees were somehow undernourished, puny things, but mine seem to be doing just fine, so I'm crossing that worry off.

    I guess my point is that even (some of) my small-sized bees, despite being so-called regressed in size, if not any other way, got mites and needed treatment. Which I provide because they are in my care, not because I like doing it. The only mite approach (whether TX or TF) that I can not support is routine, repeated treatment in the absence of any effective monitoring program. I know from my life-experience in agriculture that leads to loss of effectiveness and paradoxically makes pests harder to control.

    And like my query to Wolfer, above, always interested in what techniques you use to avoid swarms. No sooner did I wrestle them trhough the Winter From Hell, than this new challenge arose. It's always something!

    Enj.

  10. #10
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    Default Re: Brood Break with a queen cage vs. queen removal, any experience with this?

    Enj
    As I stated I'm not sure of brood breaks vs mite loads. I don't check for mites. I never see deformed wings, I've never lost a hive in the winter or any of the other problems associated with mites. My bees are Russian ferel mutts. Mostly mutt. I've never treated but I would if I saw the need to. Perhaps it has more to do with my genetics than anything else.

    On swarming
    Any established hive with a queen near or over a year old should want to swarm. It's in their DNA.
    Things have to be in order first though.
    There has to be a flow on. They won't willingly fly off with nothing to eat.
    They have to lay up a lot of brood so the existing hive has a good supply of workers once they leave with most of the field force.
    They have to backfill the broodnest with necter. I'm not sure why this is but it is.

    I believe hives have 3 modes
    Buildup mode
    Swarm mode
    Maintenance mode

    In the early spring they go into buildup mode. I will move capped brood up and drop in foundationless frames in the broodnest. How many depends on how strong the hive is. I can take frames of honey on the outside to make a little room and if I have to add another box I will. Usually do.
    As soon as those are drawn and laid up I do it again. Young queens born in the fall this is all I have to do. I never let them get out of buildup mode.

    I can't get a queen mated well here until the blackberries bloom. That can vary 30 days from year to year.
    At blackberry bloom I pull any queen that's a year old and start a nuc with her. As long as the hive wasn't in swarm mode to start with their not prone to swarm with no queen/ young queen.

    Our swarm season starts a couple weeks after blackberry bloom.
    Once their in swarm mode all bets are off. Do the best you can.

    By adding foundationless frames into the broodnest I keep them from getting congested.

    The way I see it the two biggest factors causing swarms is congestion and the age of the queen. Ironically these are the only two we can control.

    This works for me, your milage may vary.
    Woody Roberts

  11. #11
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    Default Re: Brood Break with a queen cage vs. queen removal, any experience with this?

    @Wolfer,

    Thanks so much for replying to my query about swarm-control measures..

    What you describe is exactly what I have been doing all Spring: Adding foundationless frames on the sides of the brood, and now that it is warm ,occasionally in the middle of a span of six or more brood frames. I move frames up and add boxes as necessary. This grows bees (at least for me, and this year) like mad which increases the population/crowding swarm risk/pressures, but I've been able to stay ahead of it, at least so far.

    I got paniced into doing a split, and then a re-split to fix the first split, but I might have been able to just have stayed the course. But this is my first Spring, so I'm not experienced enough to judge that.. Better safe than sorry, I guess.

    The thing I don't want to have to do is re-queen. I'm pretty fond of my Head Girls even, I expect, as they get older. Being an old girl myself, I can empathize, I guess.

    I don't know if we here in NY have a flow analogous to blackberry. We do have wild brambles (black-caps) but I don't think it is a major nectar plant. I was expecting a big black locust flow, but so far despite it being a bumper year for black locusts flowering, my bees are apparently finding what they need (or prefer) elsewhere. defining the main "flow" here, still eludes me.

    I am relieved that you have successfully used exactly what I finally chose from all the alternatives I read about here and elsewhere. I just need to refine its practice, as it is very labor intensive once my hives get to six and seven boxes.

    All my colonies are captured feral/swarms, cut out from my barn walls last Spring. I was pleased to get all three through the winter, despite my clueless incompetence at beekeeping. Heck, if they can survive my best efforts, they are certainly pretty tough bees.

    Enj.

  12. #12
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    Default Re: Brood Break with a queen cage vs. queen removal, any experience with this?

    There's no blackberry flow here either. I would be hard put to pick a quart of blackberries within walking distance of the house.
    In Walter Kellys book he said it was a question he got asked a lot. How early can you raise a queen? In his opinion it was when they bloom in your area.

    Being antsy to start in the spring I've raised several before blackberry bloom. All failed before fall with most turning into drone layers after a month or three.
    I've found Walters advice to be spot on in this case.

    I believe the trick to sustainable beekeeping is being able and willing to start new hives. Like all of God's creatures their born looking for a place to die. The bees know this, that's why they want to swarm.

    PS I raise my best queens after the summer solstice.

  13. #13
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    Default Re: Brood Break with a queen cage vs. queen removal, any experience with this?

    I pull the queen and two frames of brood and move them to a different location in the yard. I notch some two day old larvae ala mdasplitter.com and stay out of the hive for a month to let the new queen start laying. My good queens from strong colonies get a chance to build another and if the original hive fails to requeen itself, I just recombine the nuc and give them back their old queen. Caging a good laying queen is always dangerous as you may have introduction problems or she may never return to her former productivity.

    I just caught a really fine queen today, moved her and found a foundationless frame chock full of two day old larvae. I spent five minutes notching about thirty cells all over the face of the frame and hope to catch a dozen or more good cells which will be easy to cut out and make little nucs with and will be sure to leave two for the original colony which will get the brood break and hopefully produce me a fine crop of honey from the alfalfa just starting to bloom.

  14. #14
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    Default Re: Brood Break with a queen cage vs. queen removal, any experience with this?

    @ Wolfer,

    It's good to know that the often-mentioned blackberry thing is a timing point not a flow - that has frequently confused me. I do sometimes have wild-ish blackberries depending on the year, but perhaps not this year with last winter's cold, as they are marginal in my Z5/Z4 climate. I can watch closely for when they do appear and see if I can correlate that to other blooming brambles that are more reliably annual bearers. I would be very surprised if they bloomed before the Fourth of July. Blackberries here are a late summer crop that I associate with the last weeks of August. Black cap raspberries (a naturalized, or perhaps wild bramble), on the other hand are blooming now.

    Your reference to the solstice is also a point of confusion for me. I know when it is, of course, but I've wondered if it's wise to use it in my cold climate where I can expect that scarcely three months later we've had our killing frost and the growing season is effectively over. In a warmer climate there may be more time after the solstice to feed and build up a newly-created queen's colony than I would have before approching winter shuts things down again. And when you make queens in relation to the solstice is that notch the eggs/pull the old queen on the solstice or do you plan so that her mating flight is then, or her emergence or first brood, or what? Last year we did the cut out on June 23rd - and since I lost the queens in the ensuing melee, I "made queens" that day (though I had nothing whatever to do with the process and didn't even know it was going on until the extended absence of brood made it clear what had happened) a couple of days after the solstice. To my uneducated eyes that seemed to put them playing catch-up all summer and hard pressed to accumulate enough stores before winter. Of course, that was their establishment year, creating the hives prettty much from scratch. I was thinking that this weekend (14th-15th) would be a good weekend to make the splits from my two (so far) unsplit hives, which would make their combined egg/larval/pupal stages evenly straddle the solstice. Waiting until the solstice itself to do the split would put the earliest of the new queen's foragers in the field just two weeks before my first frost (28 days for the queen from egg to laying, more or less, and then an additional 42 days for her first workers to become foragers.) Thats 70 days from June 21st, or roughly around Labor Day. Does that make sense?

    Do you recommend pulling the queen and few frames out of the hive and leaving the colony to requeen itself, or taking a couple of likely-looking frames (and nurse bees and supplies) out and putting them in a nuc and leaving the old queen in place? If I wanted lots of new queens I think taking the old queen out would be best as that would leave more resources remaining in the hives to support the growth of multiple queen cells. But, at the most, I only want to make a single nuc from each hive (my safety copy, if you will). And it seems like it would be quite dispiriting for the old queen to find herself starting from scratch again in an unfamiliar nuc (probably better at inhibiting reproduction-driven swarming, though).

    Enj.

  15. #15
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    Default Re: Brood Break with a queen cage vs. queen removal, any experience with this?

    Quote Originally Posted by Vance G View Post
    I notch some two day old larvae ala mdasplitter.com and stay out of the hive for a month to let the new queen start laying.
    Vance I used notching this year for splits in the spring. It worked out pretty well for me. I also have been working on grafting, which is working well too. Grafting is a bit more of a process with planning. Bonus is that you get good at looking for the right age larva, which helps with notching too.

    As the others have stated, I do the same with moving brood up and back fulling with foundationless, or taking those brood frames and making splits if the timing is right (and the hive strength is right).

    Wolfer your genetics may be a key. I was considering russians here, but all the data I read was how the genetics need to stay russian or the mite resistance fades. In my area there are a lot of bees so there is no way to flood with Russian stock unless I buy new queens yearly or every other year. Just the same, I might try some russians in due time. Right now I am working with local resistance stock, italians, carniolans and just received some beeweaver queens this year. Anything that survives the winter and isn't extremely hot gets a chance at at an overwintering nuc situation. Would be great to eventually develop a strong local mutt resistant stock. A long time beek let me know that there are a lot of trucked bees in my area, and he noticed increased presence of hive beetles when that started years ago.

    For your year old queen nucs: Do you just make a maintenance nuc? (i.e.a few frames to keep her going, but not growing); upon her successful requeening, do you pinch her?


    enjambres - I plan on pulling queens to let my main hives requeen themselves this(likely this) or next weekend, as well as making my remaining over wintering nucs.
    Last edited by Beelosopher; 06-10-2014 at 07:49 AM.

  16. #16
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    Default Re: Brood Break with a queen cage vs. queen removal, any experience with this?

    I expect my genetics has a lot to do with it. I live in a bee desert. Before I got bees if I saw one on the white clover in the yard I call the family out to look at it.
    I've been there 13 years and have seen two swarms come by.
    There was a bee tree about a half mile from me that died this winter. It had been there for years. I've always felt this was where most of my drones came from.
    There are no other beekeepers within miles of me that I know about.

    This year I've branched out into some outyards and plan on raising some nucs at them to bring back home for genetic diversity. This may hurt me.

    On my queens I put in nucs. I usually let them get to a full size box then rob brood to hold them there until the following spring.
    The only queens I kill are drone layers. Since my area is not drone saturated I get drone layers more than most. I also have trouble with supersedure I believe due to queens not mating with enough drones.

    While I have a couple queens that are 4 this year most will be superseded at around a year so I only have to pull the queen on a few hives each year for swarm prevention. Most have been replaced by that time.

    I've raised several queens in nucs. If the nuc is strong, five frames of bees or more I've gotten pretty good queens. IMO weak nuc queens ain't worth a dime.
    Best queens are built in a double deep hive but they tend to build a lot of cells. At the current time I only have 8 two frame mating nucs and I dislike tossing all those extra cells.

    On another forum Iddee had mentioned a simple way to raise queens in a queen right hive that I'm going to try as soon as I free up some mating nucs.

    On a two deep hive make sure your queen is in the bottom with a queen excluder. This wasn't his exact instructions but I plan on waiting until all brood in the top is too old.
    I'll set a frame or two of eggs in the top box and cover the queen excluder leaving a top entrance. Once cells are started I'll remove the cover and the bees will finish the cells. Once capped I'll take the cells and the excluder off and the hive was queen right all along.
    I'm hoping this will limit the no of cells I have to deal with.
    I don't need many I just like to have some on hand.

    For me making bees is not the problem it's buying the equipment to put them in.

  17. #17
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    Default Re: Brood Break with a queen cage vs. queen removal, any experience with this?

    I've only done it from the point of view of getting more honey. Removing the queen two weeks before the flow works for this. You could cage her. They still raise a new queen usually.
    Michael Bush bushfarms.com/bees.htm "Everything works if you let it." ThePracticalBeekeeper.com 40y 200h 37yTF

  18. #18
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    Default Re: Brood Break with a queen cage vs. queen removal, any experience with this?

    Quote Originally Posted by Michael Bush View Post
    I've only done it from the point of view of getting more honey. Removing the queen two weeks before the flow works for this. You could cage her. They still raise a new queen usually.
    I wasn't aware they would still raise one, but that is good to know.

    Do you think that letting the hives requeen themselves for a brood break is worthwhile for the purpose I listed?

    Thank you

  19. #19
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    Default Re: Brood Break with a queen cage vs. queen removal, any experience with this?

    What is "notching larvae"? I'm trying to find this online and still can't find out what it is.

  20. #20
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    Default Re: Brood Break with a queen cage vs. queen removal, any experience with this?

    >Do you think that letting the hives requeen themselves for a brood break is worthwhile for the purpose I listed?

    I haven't had Varroa issues for years and I have not done it for that purpose. Perhaps someone who has tried it for Varroa can answer that.
    Michael Bush bushfarms.com/bees.htm "Everything works if you let it." ThePracticalBeekeeper.com 40y 200h 37yTF

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