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yellowjackets/paper wasps attack- what can i do besides poison?

 
Matu Collins
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The yellowjackets are nesting right now like crazy. They do this every year, and thi year seems like a heavy year. I have never been very bothered by them before, but a couple of things are making me feel like i need to do something and NOW. I don't want to spray poison on them but i do need to get rid of them.

In the future perhaps i can use deterrent methods or encourage some predator or something but for this year what can i do?

I am home alone a lot with my two year old twins and one day recently I was standing on a chair hanging something on the barn for a vine to grow up and I was stung repeatedly on the face. I started to lose both my balance and my vision. I made it off the chair and lay down and recovered just fine but i was a bit shaken. Then, about two weeks later I was putting some trash in the trash enclosure and was stung on the finger twice. The allergic reaction in my hand was drastic. It stayed in my hand, thankfully, but it made me really take the bees seriously. If what happened to my hand happened to my throat I would be dead.

The other thing is that I host wwoofers and my current wwoofer is allergic to bees. As I ask around for help it seems that 9 out of ten people i ask are also allergic. My husband is allergic too. I want to keep us safe.

And then there is just the fact of twin two-year-old boys. They are all over the farm, playing in and on everything. Only once did one of them bother a nest and get stung all over, but I don't want it to happen again.

There are nests in the trash, as i said, and in a bike trailer for the boys, on the camper that the wwoofers stay in, on the eaves of the house, in the mailbox, in the roof of the play structure with the slide. And many more!

So I know permaculture counsels small and slow solutions... but I have developed a worry that is almost a phobia. I want to know what to do now, and what to do to minimize it in the future. Any ideas?
 
Morgan Morrigan
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The least toxic is the mint spray.

some of the original poison was just a long distance stream of mint oil. some of the newer ones are adding other contact poisons, but keep looking.

could just spray on existing hives, and hang cachets where they are hiving now , to drive em away.

that same mint will keep out the gophers !
 
Matt Walker
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You can easily make a trap using 2 liter plastic bottles. Cut off the top right where the bottle reaches full width to make a funnel. Invert that into the bottle and tape it back on. Put some sugar water or a bit of soda in the bottle, maybe 2 or 3 inches of liquid in the bottom. The yellowjackets will go in there after the sugar and can't find their way out through the inverted top. You can catch hundreds of them daily. You can just throw the whole thing away or if you are brave fill it with water, wait a few hours, then untape the top and dump 'em out and start over.
 
Joe Braxton
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Strong soapy water sprayed on 'em will knock down and kill them. Just be careful with your aim, a miss can make them a bit angry.
 
Kota Dubois
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My experience with yellow jackets is that they only sting if you are threatening their hive (I have a bad habit of pushing the lawn mower over them). If you can find the entrance, usually a hole in the ground, wait until dark when they've gone to bed, make a big pot of spaghetti for dinner (or just boil water) and pour it down the hole. Works every time.

PS if your allergic reactions are getting worse every sting, go to your doctor and get an epi pen prescription and keep it on hand.
 
Jay Green
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Dawn dish washing liquid...it's what they used to keep the killer bees in check and is used to kill fire ants as well. I'd get a nice, big super soaker squirt gun~you know, the ones that squirt several feet~ and make me up some yellow jacket killer with the Dawn and have a little fun.
 
Matu Collins
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The nests are everywhere. They are on the roof eaves, in the children's play areas, in the children's bike trailer, in the tool shed, in the trash enclosure, in the mailbox, in the side of the camper that the wwoofers stay in...

I agree that they don't bother me if I don't bother the nest, but I can't go anywhere now without bothering a nest. In the past I have gone about my business around them no problem, but now that I am both allergic and home alone with twin 2 year olds...
 
wayne stephen
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Yellow Jackets usually nest in the ground. What do those nests look like ? On bike trailer and roof eaves maybe they are wasps.
 
Paul Ely
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I've used a window screen over the yellow jacket nest and then the boiling water mentioned earlier with successes – after dark of course. I've also heard of using a shop vac next to the hole - turn it on and suck them up (your power source could be deemed as toxic). I had a co-worker who would use ammonia and bleach down the nest. He’d use the window screen and then get away from the gasses and listen to the ground buzz. I’d classify this is less worse than most chemicals or gasoline that many folks use.

Hope these help and that those twin boys don't get stung.
 
Judith Browning
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wayne stephen wrote:Yellow Jackets usually nest in the ground. What do those nests look like ? On bike trailer and roof eaves maybe they are wasps.


This is what I've been wondering, too. We have yellow jackets come up out of the ground when, like Kota said, we mow over them and anger them But for us, red wasps are more of a problem nesting in the eaves of the house and any undisturbed cover....
 
Paul Ely
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Would diatomaceous earth work? Wasps do have an exoskeleton so would think that it should work. I bet a turkey baster would ‘spray’ DE.
 
Judith Browning
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I just looked at the "wasp/yellowjacket" thread listed at the bottom of this page and it looks helpful.
 
Jay Green
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Yeah...YOU get the turkey baster and get close enough to spritz 'em with DE. I'll stand back and watch the dancing....
 
Matu Collins
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Maybe the are not yellowjackets, that is just what I've always heard people call them. They have bright yellow and black stripes. They don't have the thin connection between thorax and abdomen that I associate with wasps. I was told that wasps are less allergenic and I am definitely allergic to these. I am only going on what people have told me though, I am no apiary expert.
 
John Alabarr
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Paul Ely wrote:I've used a window screen over the yellow jacket nest and then the boiling water mentioned earlier with successes – after dark of course. I've also heard of using a shop vac next to the hole - turn it on and suck them up (your power source could be deemed as toxic). I had a co-worker who would use ammonia and bleach down the nest. He’d use the window screen and then get away from the gasses and listen to the ground buzz. I’d classify this is less worse than most chemicals or gasoline that many folks use.

Hope these help and that those twin boys don't get stung.


Be careful mixing ammonia and bleach! If you breath it in you will pass out on top of the yellow jacket mound. Not joking.
 
John Alabarr
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Matu Collins wrote:The nests are everywhere. They are on the roof eaves, in the children's play areas, in the children's bike trailer, in the tool shed, in the trash enclosure, in the mailbox, in the side of the camper that the wwoofers stay in...

I agree that they don't bother me if I don't bother the nest, but I can't go anywhere now without bothering a nest. In the past I have gone about my business around them no problem, but now that I am both allergic and home alone with twin 2 year olds...


Down here in Georgia, when its late fall, the yellow jackets realize they will die soon, so they will just sting you for spite.
 
steve temp
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I use a long stick with a newspaper taped or tied on. Makes a torch, and hold under nest a few seconds. Be Careful around wood and flammables.
 
Matu Collins
Posts: 1969
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I never have gotten a positive ID on these buzzers. Observing their habits I've noticed that they nest in/on things that are in the sun for most of the day. They are not interested in the soda bottle trap but at least we have gotten rid of many of the things they nest in and put them in the shade where possible. Our tool shed is unusable because of them, I'm hoping to get a crew to move it this spring.

I'm still wishing for a solution. I went to the emergency room last year once and used an epipen once. The twins will be four in July and the baby will be one in May so I don't have time to die of anaphlaxis!

Here is the link to the abovementionedwasps and yellowjackets thread
 
Daniel Clifford
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Hi Matu,
This is still a problem for you huh,it seems the population never died down. Perhaps if you were able to get some kind of picture up of the little buggers someone may have a more targeted solution.

My only suggestion is they arent interested in sugar maybe you would be better off putting a piece of meat or some other bait in the bottle trap.

Goodluck and be safe.

Daniel
 
Mike Cantrell
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I use a weed torch, like this one:

http://t.harborfreight.com/propane-torch-91033.html

Works like magic it's hot and large enough that you can kill a nest instantly. None of the flyers have a chance to get angry, because they're dead. That means you can walk up quickly, toast a nest in well under a second, and walk away before any of the scouts come home to discover the situation.

Also works on yellowjackets, the ones that live in the ground. (Wikipedia says the distinguishing features of yellowjackets are living in the ground and loving sugar,
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yellow_jacket .) You hold the torch over the entrance so that any arrivers or escapers die, then you gradually dig the nest up (all of mine have been about two spadefuls in size) with the flame running hot over the whole operation. Kills the ones inside, kills the ones flying home, kills the larvae, all of them. Better than boiling water because if any arrive while you're working on it, the water wouldn't get them, but the flame does.

And then you've got a useful tool for clean herbiciding, bonfire starting, and even heat-treating tools.
 
Michael Cox
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Carbon dioxide should work a treat - non toxic and denser than air so it will sink into their burrows and fill them.

You can buy dry ice online (it comes packages in polystyrene to keep it cold). Drop a couple of cup fulls into the hole and as it warms up the gases sink into the space.

It is supposed to work well for other burrowing pests too (rats etc...) if you can stop up most of their holes.
 
Matu Collins
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Mike Cantrell wrote: Works like magic it's hot and large enough that you can kill a nest instantly. None of the flyers have a chance to get angry, because they're dead. That means you can walk up quickly, toast a nest in well under a second, and walk away before any of the scouts come home to discover the situation.

Also works on yellowjackets, the ones that live in the ground. (Wikipedia says the distinguishing features of yellowjackets are living in the ground and loving sugar,
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yellow_jacket


Well, the good news is that they aren't yellowjackets then! Mine wear yellow stripy jackets but they must be some kind of wasp. When they reappear I will try to safely get a photo to id them.

The unfortunate news is that most everything they nest in shouldn't be torched. One of the places they nest that I can't get out of the sun is on my barn roof under the dry cedar shingles. This is particularly troublesome because anyone going in or out of the barn door is vulnerable to attack during the summer hot season. These are not gentle wasps, although they are probably beneficial in some ecosystem way, they are touchy and sting at the least provocation.

I'm thinking about wasps and ticks now because I know the season is coming and I don't want my farm to kill or debilitate me! Last summer it felt sort of scary. For the ticks I'm trying guinea fowl but I don't know what to do about the wasps.
 
Matu Collins
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I'm sure now, they are paper wasps.

Here's what is helping- getting everything I can out of the sun.

Here's what I'm wishing for- something non toxic and non expensive to get rid of the nests that do appear in places that can't be put into the shade
Also, a way to encourage other kinds of wasps/bees that can replace them in my ecosystem. Allergy testing has confirmed that this is the only species that I am allergic too and the allergist has been very clear that until I go through the barrage of shots that will decrease my allergy that I should be extremely careful and keep an epipen nearby at all times.
 
Cj Sloane
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Wasps destroy garden caterpillars and other pests — but if you must remove them, a spray of anhydrous (water-free) isopropyl alcohol kills them on contact, and leaves no toxic residue.
 
Jay C. White Cloud
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Hi Matu,

Per the other post conversation, and advice...you do need to protect yourself...and you should not do this yourself...GET HELP!!!

Cj's advice, sprayed on nest and animal..."moonshine XXX" grade is the best I have used like this...at night!...then let us know what happens. These folks got to go around you. To walk past easier, get some cheap umbrellas with dark colors, though some now (for some species) say white...go figure. Did your doctor give you an Rx of an epipen?

Regards,

j
 
Michael Cox
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Matu Collins wrote:
Allergy testing has confirmed that this is the only species that I am allergic too and the allergist has been very clear that until I go through the barrage of shots that will decrease my allergy that I should be extremely careful and keep an epipen nearby at all times.


Matu, I've had the treatment you describe and it has reduced my allergy to the point that I can now keep bees again. It takes a long time to finish the course but is well worth it.
 
Jay C. White Cloud
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Hi Again...

A special note on species specific predation...

If you have these little folks in what seems a high number...try and figure out what they are feeding on? If you can reduce that "prey species" with some other more tolerable predator, then the "paper wasps" that are giving you issue will naturally decrease in population.

Also, If you do just "get rid of them" you may find an explosion of certain pest...As you know, it is all "a system," and if you move one thing too fare something else can move out of balance.

Regards,

j
 
Matu Collins
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We have a great abundance and diversity of things paper wasps like to eat here. There are flowers all over right now and all summer, and there is a mindboggling diverse population of bugs and critters. My permaculture plans are panning out in many ways. Last year was the first time I saw a beetle I didn't recognize eating a caterpillar I didn't recognize.
 
Ardilla Esch
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Besides the soap, alcohol and fire treatments others have mentioned, I have used plastic bags in a pinch on paper wasps. You can quickly wrap a plastic bag over the wasp nest, detach it from whatever it is hanging from (ususally by just pulling down), and tie the bag or use a wire tie and leave it in the sun. The mini-greenhouse kills them after a while. I've done this mainly in the cool morning when they are still sluggish.
 
Amit Enventres
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I just smoked/heat treated ones attempting to settle on the outside of the barbeque. Like bees, they went into rescue/survival mode and then eventually abandoned. They did not attack me (though I did take precautions) and I didn't kill them (only the unborn in the nest). Now, given the nest was small, reactions to a large nest could be different, but I am satisfied with the results given the limitations. In my opinion there's no reason to kill these or any other creatures when alternatives (such as deter/remove) exist and leave you safe and comfortable.
 
Jocelyn Campbell
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Here's an awesome tutorial video to go with Matt's suggestion. The screen shot shows a jug style, though in the video Jacqueline Freeman, of Friendly Haven Rise Farm and spiritbee.com demos the 2-liter inverted top soda bottle style, too.



Jacqueline recommends adding just a touch of apple cider vinegar to discourage honeybees from the trap and includes nice suggestions on placement.

Thanks yet again, Jacqueline!
 
Blythe Barbo
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This year seems to be a particularly strong year for wasps, yellowjackets, hornets, and other bee-like creatures - or maybe it's because my permie garden is starting to be more attractive to a variety of insects. We have had a paper wasp nest (open-faced; you can watch them cap the cells) right by the doorway in the greenhouse for a few years now. I went to get a wasp trap and the store manager asked, "Are they bothering you?" and I replied, "Well, they are right by my HEAD every time I go in there!" and he asked again, "But are they Bothering you?" - so instead of killing them, I just watched them. This year I watched one carrying a baby slug up to the nest; it got half-way up, fell back down, and climbed back up again. The determination and strength it took was like Ant Status! I go in and out of this little 6'x8' greenhouse all the time, and we respect each others' space.

Last year, my friends at our local beekeeping group warned me to kill the yellowjackets so they wouldn't rob our beehives (we have 6 Warres). So I asked, "Are they bothering you?" - and the honeybees seemed to be holding their own, so I just stood by as an assistant if needed.

I grow a few basketry willows, some of which I have shaped into living sculptures. This year, the aphids on the willows have been thick. I was going to spray them, but then I noticed these huge black flies buzzing loudly around them. They have interesting white band patterns on their tails. They were also quite active on the ground, which appeared dark and wet (aphid honeydew?) - and there was a lot of debris about. I have watched assorted hoverflies in the garden, so I was thinking this might be another case of where the fly looks like a bee as a form of defense. And Yes, they were eating the aphids! "These are my friends," I thought. I put a pan of water out for them (and the birds). Some research revealed they are not flies, but bald-faced hornets, known to be quite aggressive, and my fear level spiked considerably. Still, they appear to be helping, not hurting. I can't see their nest. I have walked through the "willow room" many times and they buzz a lot, but they do not attack. My fear is that they will get territorial as the weather cools - or that they will go after my honeybees, and I will have to declare war. For now, the willow room is off-limits to the grandkids.

I guess my point is, there are many types of pollinators out there, and we do not always understand the complexity at which they fit into the ecosystem and whether they are friend or foe (and they can be both) - so you have to decide for your particular circumstance. For me, supporting honeybees has been a wondrous experience and also a strong lesson in overcoming fear; my mother was quite allergic, and I swell up pretty badly, but so far, it has not been life-threatening. In creating habitat for honeybees, others come along with the territory. Fortunately, these wasps and hornets are not in heavily trafficked areas. For now, I am willing to stand back, watch, and learn. Thanks to everyone for tips on what to do if I end up needing to interfere (but I doubt that I will resort to flame throwing!). I have also heard putting an overturned glass bowl over the ground entrance to a yellowjacket nest is quite effective. They see the light, so don't dig a new exit, but can't get out, and so they die.
Bald Faced Hornets.jpg
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Paper Wasp Carrying Slug.jpg
[Thumbnail for Paper Wasp Carrying Slug.jpg]
Paper Wasp Markings.jpg
[Thumbnail for Paper Wasp Markings.jpg]
 
Matu Collins
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Those paper wasps look like the ones I have. I've been diligent this year about getting rid of their nests before they become big enough to get aggressive about and that has helped, along with moving anything we can out of the sun. Also knocking down the tool shed that they like to nest in and on.

We have the bald faced hornets around here too and despite their reputation for aggression noone has been stung by them. The only ones here I'm afraid of are those black and yellow paper wasps because they have stung me enough to make me allergic.
 
Blythe Barbo
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According to this wikipedia site on pest-repelling plants http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_pest-repelling_plants, catnip, chives, clovers, coriander, dill, eucalyptus, fennel, garlic, larkspurs, nasturtiums, peppermint, petunias, and spearmint all repel aphids - so that pretty well gives me a garden plan of what to plant around my willows. If the aphids aren't there in such abundance, perhaps the hornets will go elsewhere, too. By my experience, wormwood works as an aphid attractant - (I plant it with the brassicas - the aphids go to the wormwood instead of the broccoli) - so I might also plant some wormwood at a distance. It prefers a more dry location anyway, although you have to watch it because it can be invasive where we are.
 
Jonathan Krohn
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I found this thread from the daily-ish email and have not read the whole thing, but I do have a couple of comments. First, in Jacqueline Freeman's meat trap, is there any reason you couldn't just screw the bottle cap on over top of the string? This would remove the need for the holes and the toothpick. Second, Blythe, I think your paper wasps are European paper wasps. I've noticed they consistently have those two yellow dots on their upper abdomen instead of a full yellow stripe there. Personally, I haven't found them to be particularly aggressive.

Jonathan
 
Blythe Barbo
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I think your paper wasps are European paper wasps. I've noticed they consistently have those two yellow dots on their upper abdomen instead of a full yellow stripe there. Personally, I haven't found them to be particularly aggressive.

@Jonathan - The more I learn, the more interesting they are! Like I said, these are right by my head when I walk in the door - it is not a very big colony - I water, tend to my plants, and leave - they eat the bugs and pollinate - or maybe someone else comes in and pollinates - it's all good. They do not perceive me as a threat - and I appreciate their help. Taking a picture & blowing it up to get a closer look has been helpful in distinguishing them. Thanks for the info!
 
Rebecca Norman
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I thought I read a wonderful article on this forum recently, but now I can't find it so I'll try to recreate what I remember.

This page has good info: http://insects.about.com/od/insectssociety/a/Control-Paper-Wasps.htm
"Check eaves, shutters, and other high traffic areas in your yard early in the spring, when paper wasp queens are first building their nests. If you find a nest before the first generation of workers have reached adulthood, you can simply knock the nest down with a broom to discourage the queen from nesting in that location."
Basically the plan I read about was this. Paper wasps make new nests every year, and once the queen settles in and lays eggs it's hard to make them move. So in the spring, be diligent at watching for them, see where they are congregating or going, and disturb their newly started nests by knocking them down or smoking them out. At this point the queen may go and find a new location to start a nest, at a farther edge on your property where they can go about their insect eating business without being in your face.

If you wait until later in the season, even if you destroy the nest or smoke them out, the eggs may hatch, the queen may return, and/or the workers may return and rebuild the nest.

That's what I understood.

Also, if you're going to destroy or smoke out any of these diurnal creatures, do it at night when they are all at home, otherwise the others may come home and start over.
 
Jocelyn Campbell
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Excellent tips, Rebecca! That makes sense, because I do recall moving a nest in the spring quite easily, and we've removed larger ones at night here, too.

I agree that the hornets have their place in Nature, and I want them around, in balance and not guarding my doorways. For the first year here at base camp, I've gotten along fine with the yellow jackets (not sure the exact species) and haven't been stung. This year, actually, in the last week or so, three of us have been stung. I was stung on right next to my belly button when one was squished between my mug and my stomach!

I like the idea of discouraging them so close to the house, and encouraging them farther away.

Jonathan, I hope to try a plastic jug trap today, and will try the string without a toothpick!
 
Matu Collins
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I spoke too soon about the bald faced hornets! Oh dear. One of the twins, now four years old, was under a tree where they had a nest we didn't know about and the poor fella was stung repeatedly all over his head and hands in a very short time. Ow!
 
Jocelyn Campbell
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OUCH and then some! Gosh. I do hear how August or late summer they have less food so they become more aggressive. Some visitors here swear by holding the pos/neg ends of a 9-volt battery on the skin around the bite to neutralize the venom. I didn't try it because I went to bed right after my sting, so ymmv.
 
I agree. Here's the link: http://richsoil.com/cards
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