This just looks incredible. Watching the bees, bringing in all these different flavours of honey in this window here. But what we're seeing in this hive is quite a lot of bees. So when they're really crowded in here, and if you take the windows off and it's really crowded in the windows as well, then you know it's time to do something about it.
So if we leave them really crowded, they're likely to swarm we're past swarm season now. So they're less likely, but even so you can get some late swarms. So when you see crowds like this, it's time to either take a split or add another super or brood box. So today we're going to add another super to the hive, which is something we promised to do. So let's get straight into it.
We'll take off the roof of the hive first, and it's also important to protect yourself from stings. So another thing to do is get your smoker going. So we've got that going a little earlier. I'm going to be going without gloves, but if you're new to beekeeping, wear your gloves. A couple of puffs of smoke in the entrance of the hive, and then you can leave that smoker just by the front there. So I'm going to take the roof off here and put that aside. And I might just use that as my place to get the super prepared.
Now, the inner cover here between the boxes is going to be removed, but not quite yet. First, we're going to prepare our Flow Hive Super and make sure all the cells are ready for the bees. So to do that, remove these covers and we get our Flow key. And it's as simple as taking out these top caps and then using this Flow key, inserting it into the top slot, you can see there's two slots there. Insert it into the top one, give it a turn.
Now that's important because the parts may have moved in transit and you don't want cells like this, (misaligned) or the bees won't be able to wax them up and fill them full of nectar. Okay. So we just go along, do this to each frame. It’s a quick process, but an important one, and that way we know all the cells are ready for the bees to start using. Make sure you put those caps back in.
The next thing after is to get your frames nice and aligned to form the beautiful observation window we were looking at earlier here. Because you don't want spaces for the bees to get out and you want them all lined up nicely and no spaces here for the bees to get out. But if one's pushed back and one's forward, then you might find bees will escape between them.
So to do that, what we need to do, and I'll just turn this around so you can see that. There's a little screw at the back here and see that one there. You just adjust that out a little and that will push it forward. And that adjustment screw is because there's lots of different size boxes in the world. And we wanted it to be able to suit all of the different slight variations and that just pushes the frame forward. And when they're all pushed forward, they form the nice window. So that's a simple process.
So our super is now ready. So the next thing we're going to do is take the inner cover off the hive. And what we're going to do is take this off so we can remove that inner cover, but first make sure you're protecting yourself to minimise bee stings.Middle zip up, then comes the side zips and the velcro over the top, okay.
Hive tool - that comes with our suits and jackets. You get under here and lever it. Now the bees will likely stick this all together. So we're going to just use the tool to pry their propolis, which is their glue. They collect tree resins to make that propolis and they glue everything together. So you need to slowly pry the inner cover off like that. You can see there, the propolis it's the brown one, and you can actually scrape off and chew on it. It's great if you've got a cold or something, it's got antibacterial properties, propolis is used widely in medicine. And you can see some bright yellow beeswax. So the bees are collecting some interesting pollen and nectar sources to get that yellow colour. Isn't that amazing?
So, because we're above the excluder the queen can't be on here. So we don't need to worry too much about looking for the queen. I'm gonna just rest that up against the hive. Now we've already established in the side windows that there's a lot of bees in this box, so they're ready for another box. Or as I said earlier, we could take a split. Often I prefer to take a split and run your hives a bit smaller, but we had some questions about double supers. So I thought “why not just add a second Flow super to this hive? The colony is strong enough, there's a nectar flow on and they'll get up there and create a whole other box of honey to harvest on top”.
So all we need to do now is choose a moment when there's no bees around the edge and put the super right on top. So I've got one little bee here, just going to move you out of the way. And that's it. We now have a double-supered Flow Hive and the bees will get up there, appreciate the extra space. They'll be less likely to swarm and you'll have twice as many frames to harvest. So that can be a wonderful way to go as well.
The inner cover then can go right on top. I don't want to squash any bees. So I'm going to just brush them off the inner cover. Actually, I'm going to shake them off. So if you're trying to get bees off something, in most things in beekeeping use a nice, slow movement. But in this case, we're going to do a fast movement just to shake them all off like this. And there we go. Most of the bees are off and we can now put it on without squashing any bees. There we go. And last but not least the roof goes on top. Just gives them a bit of extra shade against this hot sun that we have right now. It's quite a hot day here. Our little covers can go on now and we can enjoy the process of watching the bees get up there and do their thing, mixing up all the Flow Frames and producing the honey.
Super and brood box questions
Should the bottom super be full before you add another?
Look, it doesn't, there's no real rules about it, but it would make sense. Because if you just add heaps of space for the bees, you're going to be disappointed that they don't fill that box up. And it's best if you want action on the Flow Frames, to have a lot of bees in the box. And if you haven't got many, that'd be a very slow process of getting to this beautiful stage where you can see the honey and it's ready to harvest.
Will burr comb on the Flow Frames encourage bees into the super?
Okay. That is something you can do. It's something that I almost never do, apart from just showing you how to do it. But if you're finding the bees are taking a long time to start building on the Flow Frames, then by all means scrape a bit of burr comb off the top of the brood box.
If the brood box is ready for a super, then they’ll probably be building comb on top, just like this one was. They were building it on top of this one as well. And you can scrape that off and just mash it into the Flow Frame face, and do it in the window so you can enjoy watching them. And what you'll find is they'll recycle that wax and quite quickly distribute that on the Flow Frame. And if there's no nectar flow and your colony is not strong enough, it won't make honey appear in your frames, but it'll get them started. And you'll be able to watch that process. So the best recipe is a strong colony, lots of bees and nectar flow. And then it happens really quickly.
If you come up to this hive over here, you can have a look in this window, and this is a super we've just added a couple of weeks ago. And you can see they're just getting started. You can see the wax right down the cells as they're adding their wax and completing the cell pattern, ready to start nectar. So that's what it looks like when they're just getting started. We didn't add any wax and they're creating it themselves, so away they go. If the nectar flow continues, they will keep going, finish all those cells and then start depositing nectar and producing honey.
Can I put a brood box on top of my super?
You certainly can, but you wouldn't call it a brood box. You'd call it a super, so that would be a conventional super with your wooden frames or your wood and foundation frames, depending on what you want to do. And the bees will then get up there and create some honeycomb for you. Typically, if people are collecting just for honeycomb, they'll put a ¾ or ½ size box on and you can get those and add them to your hive as well.
You can add that just right on top. If you want it to be a brood box, then you'd do it underneath the excluder here. So in between the brood box and the excluder, and then you would call it a brood box.
Can I put windows in the brood box?
You certainly can, by all means. A lot of people who get in there and experiment and make their designs. It's always fascinating to see. If you've got a nice design, send us a picture. We actually thought in the beginning that lots of people would get our Flow Frames and adapt them to their conventional boxes. So we put diagrams and measurements for them to do their cutouts and so on. It was a surprise to us to see that most people just wanted it done for them and wanted the whole thing complete.
By all means, get in there and experiment. You can add Flow Frames to any beehive, even a top bar hive, if you want to get really creative. And as to cutting windows, you can certainly cut windows with a jigsaw. There's a little technique. It's a little bit tricky, but if you don't want to drill a hole to start your jigsaw, then you can do what's called a plunge cut. Where you basically get your jigsaw and your piece of wood and you get it going at high speed. And you'd just let it dig in as you move it down, while you don't have that hole on the edge of your window. But if you're not used to doing that kind of thing, you might want a little bit of help there.
Should I start my hive with two brood boxes?
It's something you certainly can do. However, I would recommend just starting with a single brood box and a single super like you see us doing, and that will give you the fastest action in terms of bees filling your Flow Frames. You'll find if you put lots of boxes that it'll take some time before the colony is big enough, really to want that extra space and area to store honey. So you might get a bit impatient if you've got too many boxes. What you want to do is compress them a little bit so that they start working on the Flow Frames sooner.
How do I check the brood box when there’s a super on top?
You will need to take the super off. Now I have experimented with running the other way around, sort of broods on top and the supers underneath. Because we don't need to pull out the honey frames so much, like in conventional harvesting, you're pulling out the honey frames more than the brood. So it makes sense to have the honey on top, however, by all means experiment with that. But what I've found is the bees will be slightly less enthusiastic to fill them with honey if the honey is down the bottom and the brood is up the top. And while you can get them do it, you'll probably get slightly less honey in that configuration, but I haven't experimented with it enough.
So if you want to try it by all means, it certainly does allow for easy access to the brood. But generally what beekeepers do is they just lift the boxes off. If you find that heavy and full of honey and, and you're not strong enough to do that, then make sure you get some help, or if you don't have help, of course, you can pull out each individual frame, set them aside and that'll make it nice and light to lift off the honey super and give you access to the brood frames.
Can I use an ideal super on a Flow Hive?
So the Flow Frames are standard. This one's compatible with an 8-frame Langstroth and we also have the ones compatible with a 10-frame Langstroth. So we call that the Flow 6 because the Flow Frames are wider (than the brood frames). Bees generally make wider comb if they're away from the brood nest. So we've followed suit with that. So what it means is a Flow 6 is compatible with the 8 frame Langstroth, and the Flow 7 is compatible with the 10 frame Langstroth.
And then you can put another box on top. Sometimes you'll find that the roof won't quite go on properly, but you could just sit it on top at that point; depending on the size of the box you're adding. Or you could add your ideal underneath your Flow Frames, and that would work as well. And it is a popular thing to do to collect a bit of honeycomb.
How often should I inspect the brood box?
Generally beekeepers go through a bit of a cycle of inspecting, and we don't have the same issues here as you have in Michigan, we don't have the Varroa mites, so that lessens how often we need to manage our hives. However, there are different strategies beekeepers use, and you'll need to find out from your local beekeepers, what you should be doing. Get some help with that management. In some cases, like in Germany, now they're saying that it's good to get into your hive weekly during the foraging season and make sure you're managing pests and diseases. But that's on the extreme case. But by all means, you can get in there if you're really keen to learn about beekeeping, it's a wonderful thing to learn and to see what the bees are doing. But generally, it's a lot longer than that in between getting in there and checking on your brood for pests and diseases.
Does it annoy the bees if I inspect the brood box too often?
Certainly it can annoy the bees, especially if you're doing it on grey, rainy or windy days then they won't like that. So you want to be careful of chilling your brood and that relates to the previous question. You wouldn't be inspecting your brood in the winter time. You want to make sure they have enough stores prior to winter. If you don't, you should feed them.
Then you basically want to leave them be. If you're pulling them apart that'll make it harder for your bees during those winter months. So you can over-inspect at certain times. Perhaps if your colony is really dense with bees and you're getting in there often, and you're having trouble removing the frames without squashing bees, and you could risk squashing the queen as well. So while the answer is “no, get in there and learn as much as you can”, you also want to tune in with the bees and make sure you're being careful and gentle so you don't squash the queen.
Why don’t you put the new super under the full super?
You could certainly put it underneath. It's just for ease that I've put it on top. There is a trend in beekeeping to under-super, and because bees will tend to move honey up to the top, further away from the entrance. So you might save them some work by putting the super underneath the super that's currently full.
Bees in the new super
Have a look down the cells here. You can see the bees are just starting to work them already because there's a lot of bees in between these frames. For those that are just tuning in today, we were adding another super to your Flow Hive, which is something that you can do if you want to. And already, they're starting to get their heads down cells and starting their amazing work of waxing up those frames, but we won't expect it to happen overnight. We'll expect a gradual transition as the colony expands into this super.
Okay, Africanized bees, I'm not an expert on. We don't have them in Australia, but I have heard some crazy stories about the aggressive traits of Africanized bees. So you have to find out from your local beekeepers, whether there's issues you'll need to deal with there. And safety is really important. So make sure you're staying safe if you've got Africanized bees. But the answer is yes, Africanized bees have been tested and will quite happily fill the Flow Frames.
Why do you recommend painting the roof?
Okay, we paint the roof because that gets the most weather, the sun beats down on it. You might get issues with it starting to buckle and warp. If it's not sealed now, I'd really recommend painting the top and bottom. On this hive that hasn't been done. So it would be slightly more prone to the shingles warping because you can get moisture differences either side.
So there's a little tip there, paint your shingles before you put them on. That'll give you the best weather protection. You can even add sealant in between these parts here under the ridge cap, and that will provide it an even better sealant. Or if you get lots of paint in there that will help too.
What oils can I use on my Cedar hive?
So as far as the box goes, if you're using the Western Red Cedar wood, you can keep it looking like this beautiful, natural wood tone. However, you're going to need to to really give it a bit of TLC from time to time, if you want to keep it looking like that. Because if you think about what's going on, wood is a natural thing and the earth and the elements are trying to turn it back into the earth. If you go up the road here, you'll find different examples of the wood. It’s such beautiful wood that turns from dark to light. So typically this is a linseed oil we've used and it's one that's got a solvent in it, so it really soaks in. It's just from the local hardware store. And if you reapply it every six or 12 months and give it a little rub back, you can keep it looking good for years.
If you come up here, you can see this is a painted one here, and that's another way to go. You can get creative with your artworks. This one's been here for years now with this beautiful artwork on it. And that will also keep it looking good. This is our Araucaria model, And we recommend painting that.
The Western Red Cedar has natural properties to resist mildew and things like that. On the outside, the mildew doesn't damage, your box just doesn't look so good. Whereas the Araucaria carrier doesn't, so it will tend to get that mildew on the outside in the first three to six months. So painting the other wood types, the Araucaria or Paulownia is a better idea. If you want to keep that beautiful natural wood look, then the Cedar is the go.
Is it too late to install a nuc or swarm?
The Blue Mountains does get a bit of a cold winter, but here we are. And we've got a lot of summer left. So I wouldn't say it would be too late to be getting quite big flows from all of those eucalypts in the Blue Mountains. It's really nice, honey. So I would get some bees in there as quick as he can and let them really make use of the rest of the summer there in the Blue Mountains.
Of course, if you can get hold of a whole hive, sometimes you can find them online, people selling a whole hive, whether it be conventional one or a Flow Hive. And then you're starting with a colony that's already big. Put that straight in to give you best results, because they'll get into it and have big numbers to collect that nectar.
However, a nuc is a good way to start as well because you've got half the frames in the brood box already with wax, with pollen, with the queen laying and already with brood. And all they need to do is expand from there. And if there's nectar in the flowers, then they will expand quite quickly. So I would get into it.
How do I clean the Flow Frames?
Okay. So the bees, while the Flow Frames are inside the hive, generally keep them quite clean. Of course, you'll get the wax and propolis buildup, which will change the look. But to the bees they're clean.
Now, if you then take your Flow Frames off, for whatever reason, perhaps your colony got weak, and it wasn't big enough to support the Flow Frames; or perhaps you've got a long winter and you're wanting to downsize your hive for the winter. Then if you're in a humid climate, you can get the frames starting to go a bit mouldy, rodents could get to them, et cetera. And you might want to clean them before putting them back in.
There's a few things you can do to clean them. One is just get a hot hose from your laundry, because it will help soften the wax as well, set the frames to the open position so that the water can flow through and just give them a good wash out. And then let them dry.
Once they are dry, you can put them back in and the bees will do the rest of the work. If you've got a freezer, that's a better way to keep your frames so that they stay good. So if you're taking frames off, particularly if they've got a bit of nectar in them, you can put them in a freezer and they will stay like they are ready to go on in the springtime. So that's a, that's another option. Beekeepers on a commercial scale often have big freezers for their stickies and their frames in order to keep them good for when they go back onto the hives again.
In terms of the trough area down here, I find if you clean up that little leak back point here, it stays clear and clean enough. If you find this there's buildup in there and you want to clean it out, put a damp cloth on your Flow key and just give it a clean up prior to you harvesting it. So that's about all in cleaning Flow Frames.
Why aren’t you wearing gloves?
That's a great question. So if you don't wear gloves, you will get stung on the hands more often than wearing gloves. So that's what it's about, until you get comfortable with bees, until you learn about your hive and learn what they sound like and look like when they're likely to sting, then you can start experimenting with not wearing your gloves. But I would recommend wearing them first till you really start to tune in on what it looks like when they're in a stinging mood. That way you get less stings.
Having said that, even for an experienced beekeeper, I get stung on her hands every so often. Because I accidentally put my hand on a bee or perhaps I've been speaking for way too long on a Facebook live and they're getting over it and they'll come on, give me a sting on the hand. So if you don't want any stings it's probably impossible to completely avoid it in beekeeping, but you can try. And that means wearing a good bee suit and your gloves as well.
Can I avoid making a split by harvesting the Flow Frames?
Okay. So the triggers for swarming, a minor trigger is whether they've got space to store honey. So yes, that will help a little bit, harvesting the honey and giving them more work to do. But the major one is actually in the brood box where there's not enough room to lay any eggs. If you harvest some out of the brood box, they might move some of the honey from the bottom to the top, freeing up some space for eggs. So it does help a bit.
If you do want to limit their swarming behaviour, you'll need to get into the brood box and give them some blank frames. So if you're using comb guides, naturally drawn combs, then you can just cut the wax and honey out of some of the side ones and move them into the centre and enjoy eating that honeycomb.
Or if using foundation, then you'll need to prepare those and swap them out and shuffle the frames so you've got the new ones in the centre. That will limit your swarming. Or you can take a split, as you said, or you could add another brood box or another super. So there's your options.
It really depends. This time of year in Australia, they'll be less likely to swarm. Swarm season is generally the first six weeks of spring. And then you get a lot less swarming activity after that. If you look in the windows and they're really crowded, you can't even see the combs like we were discussing earlier on this hive; then that's the time to do something about it. You can see a lot of bees in the window, you can still see the frame a little bit. So they're not as packed as they sometimes get, but certainly good numbers of bees. And we've got that extra box on top that they'll be starting to use soon. They haven't ventured up there much yet, but soon they will.
Can I stop bees from drowning in my pool?
Okay. You do often see bees dying by the water's edge or in the pool. Now, you have to keep in mind that bees have a massive turnover rate. If you've got a strong hive with 50,000 bees and they're in foraging season; every four to six weeks there'll be 50,000 bees that are dying and 50,000 bees that have emerged - that's a lot. And the last job they do is collect water. So you'll often find bees that are at the end of their life collecting water. And that's why you see them tattered and slow collecting water.
If you don't want them to collect water from your pool, then give them another water source. And Fred Dunn has got a video titled something like “Bees need minerals”. And he did some great experiments to show that bees will go for salty water before they go after fresh water. He swapped them around and then they would keep following the salty one. So if you are giving them another water source, add a teaspoon of salt to your container of water. And that way the bees will prefer that over the hopefully less salty water in your swimming pool.
Frederick Dunn says:“One teaspoon of salt per quart (1 tsp/L), and the bees get what they need. It's also valuable to just leave them some fresh water with no salt as well.”
Where can I get bees?
So the best spot to get bees is locally. So to do that, look up your local bee breeders, and there's a few different ways to go about it. You can either purchase bees, or you can get bees off a friend. And we've got great videos on showing you how to start with the four different methods, actually five. So one is, purchase a nucleus, which is the way I would recommend. It's the easiest way to go. You've got an already-going little hive. All you need to do is get in your beesuit, get your smoker out, transfer them to your brood box. Look after them and they'll grow.
The next one is a package. Now the package can arrive in the mail. So the advantage of that is you don't need to go and pick them up from the bee breeder. However, a package is like an artificial swarm. So they're a step back from a nucleus, which is an already-going hive with pollen, nectar, and brood stores in the frames. So a package typically will come with a queen and the queen goes in there with the package and away you go from that.
And we've got a video showing you how to do that. If you have a look at thebeekeeper.org, there we've got detailed videos taking it from square one all the way through to a deep scientific knowledge of beekeeping. So tune into that, it’s free to try and you've got a great beekeeping course there with experts from all over the world, contributing to that.
There's also videos on our Facebook live of various different methods as well. If you want to catch a swarm, we've got videos showing you how to do that. And that's best in the spring time, you'll find swarms around.
And another way is to take a split. So if somebody has got a busy hive like this, you'll actually be doing them a favour to take out some of the brood frames and put them into your box. And you can start like that provided there are eggs in the cells the bees can raise the queen from. Or if you can identify which box the queen is in, then you can take some frames without the queen and order a specific queen from a queen breeder. Which might have great hygienic traits, or productive traits or gentle traits, whatever you want to request from the breeder. So there's a few options for you.
What’s the difference between robbing and orientation flights?
Okay, so, so that's a good question. And it can be a hard one to tell, but here is what you need to look for; when a hive is being robbed, there'll be bees coming from other hives, and they don't necessarily know where the entrance is. They've been told the information by the dance of the robber bees coming back of where the hive is, but not exactly where the entrance is. So they'll tend to come to the hive and they'll be looking for a way in every little crack and crevice. And you'll see, see kind of a frantic movement.
These bees, they're the keen robber bees, and they want to get into that hive. So if you see that behaviour, what you have is robbing and you'll need to stop that behaviour, reduce the entrance down to just one bee wide. We showed you that in a Facebook live recently, just by putting some of this grass mulch in the front. Lock the entrance down, and that way your bees will be able to defend the hive better.
So that's the main one. You can also look at the landing board and if you see fights happening where your guard bees are trying to fend off the robbers, you'll see full tussles and rolls and them falling off the landing board. That is another sign as well. So keep a look out. You don't want your hive to be robbed out, or it will likely perish.
Can I put insulation between the roof and inner cover?
You certainly can. And some people will do that. Some will do a complete wrap over the winter time. In here, there's plenty of room to add some extra insulation. This wood has an insulating effect in itself, but what you might like to do is put some insulation material under here, which could be an old polyester stuffing pillow, or some house insulation.
You might like to put a waterproof layer here, so condensation or any weather that comes through your shingles, doesn't get on your inner cover. And then some insulation above that. You could cut an old styrofoam box and use that. That could be a nice layer under the roof. I'm not an expert in cold climates because we live in a subtropical region, but there are some great videos. And we have more videos for you thebeekeeper.org.
Do the foods the bees eat influence the severity of their stings?
Okay. Now, if you've got more information on that, please chime in on the thread. I have noticed that sometimes your sting can be just almost nothing. It's not much more than a mozzie bite, and other times it can be quite painful. Sometimes it swells, sometimes it doesn't. So it really, really does depend, I imagine, on how much venom goes in, the place on your body, how your body reacts and the strength of the venom from that bee.
Should I remove old comb from the brood box?
It's a good idea to cycle out the old combs. And after they've been in the hive for a couple of seasons, it's a good idea to start cycling them out. So what that means is moving some of the frames from the centre of your brood box towards the edge. Once the bees have filled them with honey, which they typically do on the edges of the hive, you can then remove that. You can cut out the honeycomb if it's naturally drawn, straight in the field, and put your frame back in. And when you put it back in, you could move it towards the centre. So some brand new area for the bees to build and the queen to lay. Now, if there's a little bit of brood in the outer frames, which sometimes there can be, and you then don't want to take that out of the hive.
So there's a few things you can do there. And if you've got the Hybrid, you could move that up to the hybrid box, on the edge there's space for them. Or if you've got a setup like this, you could even put your frame with a little bit of brood right under the roof. You'd then pull out this cap, allow those bees to emerge. The nurse bees will come up, look after that brood. And a week or two later, there'll be no brood left in it. And you can take that frame away. That's another thing you can do if you're looking for a place for brood to emerge in one of your outer frames. Just prop it up a little bit so that the comb isn't resting right on the roof. You want at least a 6mm gap between this space and the surface of the comb for the bees to work on.
What is the best time of day to install a nucleus?
Really the best time for beekeeping is mid-morning to mid-afternoon on a sunny day that's not too windy. Having said all that, it doesn't always line up with your schedule and you end up beekeeping at all sorts of times, but that's when the bees are most calm. They're busy doing their foraging work. A lot of the bees are out and it makes it easier to work your hive.
How can I trap small hive beetles in the Classic Flow Hive?
Okay. So if you've got a Classic hive there's a few things you can do. You can catch beetles by just making your own tray. You might want to even get the lid off a Tupperware container, add a bit of oil to it and slide it in between the Corflute slider and the mesh. So you put the Corflute slider in the lower position, add a little tray and catch some beetles that way.
I've seen some people get out their handy skills and create their own tray by getting the Corflute, and siliconing on some edges to it, to create a tray that can slide right in there. So you could do that.
You could also go down the route of the fluffy tablecloth. So if you go to a takeaway place, they often have those tablecloths covering them, which are kind of a vinyl cover. You can get that material down at your local textile store and on the underside, it has this fluffy texture. If you're going to use that to catch beetles, because they get their legs stuck in the fluff, then make sure you stick it well to the Corflute slider. If the bees are able to reach it, they'll start ripping it up through the mesh. So you put your Corflute slider in the lower position, get some double-sided tape or some glue, and glue that fluffy material to it. And you can catch a bunch of beetles that way as well. You can also get other types of beetle traps to add in between your frames in hives from conventional beekeeping stores.
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