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Tales of the Hive: The Drive to Thrive

By xC0000005 in Culture
Sun May 07, 2006 at 12:00:00 PM EST
Tags: etc (all tags)
/etc

In the depths of winter, a colony of honeybees holds tightly in a cluster, wagering their survival on the heat their wing muscles generate and the stores they prepared the previous year. As one they heed the command of instinct: Survive. In the early spring the colony walks the razor's edge. Build up too soon and they will starve before the first blossoms. Too late and the colony misses a vital window to replenish meager stores. For the colony that passes these trials new challenges await requiring new sacrifices. The greatest of these may fall upon the queen. She will take part in a ritual that can only end in her death, as a new command awakens with the turning of the sun. Survive has becomes Thrive.


This ritual, known as supercedure, will not play out in every colony. The reasons for it are known only to the bees. By instinct they gauge the state of the colony, weighing its growth rate, health, stores and a thousand other factors. If the queen is well, if the colony is healthy and the growth is solid, the drama ends.

If the colony is stunted by disease, parasites, weather or other factors, the blame falls first on the queen. This vote of no confidence will be fatal to her, as the writing is in the wax. She has been measured and found wanting. The workers craft queen cups from the wax, oval balls that protrude from the cell face like a tiny hollow marble. Unlike the queen cells prepared for swarming these are high in the broodnest, safe and warm. The wax is smoothed, polished, worked over and over, until the queen approaches. She will lay a single fertilized egg in each queen cup and then the workers take over. They cling to them fiercely, vibrating their wings to keep the egg and larva that hatches soon warm. The larvae inside will eat a special diet of royal jelly, far more than the peasant sisters who raise them were fed. They are princesses, though fat, slick slimy princesses unlike any fairy tale.

Even as they act for the good of the colony the bees are also working for the good of the species. This mass creation is an act of genetic roulette. The current queen mated with up to ten drones so the probability is high that the princesses are half sisters. These different fathers have endowed their daughters with genes selected for quick birth. If the colony were preparing an emergency queen, she would hatch as soon as possible. The virgin queen who bursts from her cell first rests a moment. Then amid the buzz and the hum of the hive a sound enraptures her. It is a sound like the quack of a duck, the piping of another virgin. It awakens a royal bloodlust and she quickly searches out her rivals. To find them, she pips, a sound produced by vibrating against the wax. Instinct demands of the unhatched queens that they pip back, playing a deadly game of marco polo with their soon to be murderer. She rips into their cells from the side so that they are helpless, turning their wax beds into wax tombs. With the time of her birth the princess claims her queen right. With the blood of her sisters she seals it. The workers will drag their bodies from the hive and cast them aside.

She will rest in the darkness of the hive, hiding in the corners and the sides. She is torn between two instincts. One whispers that she is safest when she runs. The other drives her to pip from time to time to assure herself that she is alone. With the passage of a few more days her wings harden and her hairs stiffen. The sunlight that strikes the entrance of the hive is no longer so frightening. It beckons to her and she approaches the entrance. She takes ever widening flights, assuring herself that she can find her way back. Then she returns, waiting for the next urge to drive her on.

When it comes she leaves the hive. She is only twenty one days old. Other eggs laid at the same time as her will barely hatch today, on the day she changes her role forever. The other foragers are weeks older. She flies out with them, then leaves the forage paths to follow a map no other can see. It leads over the local Drone Congregation Area, where drones from all neighboring colonies have gathered to wait. The virgin queen bears the combined sex drive of twenty thousand sisters, so on this flight she will mate with ten to fifteen drones before she touches the earth again. This isn't the head cheerleader dating the quarterback. This is the head cheeleader dating the entire football team. Like some b grade horror movie, when the homecoming queen returns, her suitors are dead. The same aparatus that forms a worker's stinger forms a drone's genitals. After mating he literally pulls them out of his body, and falls to the ground, a look of rapture on his tiny face. She leaves the hive as princess. She returns as queen.

Safe again in the living city of wax, a new desire consumes her. It is a call her worker sisters can never hear, a command so strong and loud that it drowns all other instincts. She will not fight. She will not clean. She cannot even remember how to feed herself. She knows only to answer this new command, Lay. She does. She may lay unevenly at first, perhaps two eggs to a cell, but quickly she finds the ancient rhythm like the heartbeat of the hive. Around her a court of workers grows, dispersing her scent, her pheromone, her voice to the hive.

She may lay side by side with her mother or never encounter her on the wax plains. In time her "voice" will be so strong that she is the queen; the only queen. The old queen may be crushed by the workers. She may be thrust from the hive entrance to the night chill. She may simply be ignored, till she weakens and falls to the hive floor. Thrive is no kinder than Survive. Sister against sister, daughter against mother, for the good of the Colony it will be done.

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Tales of the Hive: The Drive to Thrive | 59 comments (51 topical, 8 editorial, 0 hidden)
bee man (2.75 / 4) (#1)
by circletimessquare on Sun May 07, 2006 at 12:11:23 PM EST

+1 fp x1000

The tigers of wrath are wiser than the horses of instruction.

oh noes (3.00 / 4) (#10)
by zombie twisted sandshoe on Mon May 08, 2006 at 06:17:09 AM EST

it's bee guy


Sigs! Like, Jesus Christo Lewis the Third, haven't you people grown up? - dubya
[ Parent ]
This series is awesome... (3.00 / 9) (#2)
by terryfunk on Sun May 07, 2006 at 12:47:19 PM EST

First...+1 FP and PLZ some more of these. Also, it would be great if you could post some links with HIREZ PIX of "The HIVES". I think that would make an awesome addition to this series.

I live in a desert and believe it or not, bees are quite plentiful here. I went on a camping trip once along the Rio Grande. It was very early spring and I started hiking down a dry creek bottom. The only large amount of vegetation is along this creek. It is covered with Mexican buckeye trees in full bloom. The smell blossoms were overwhelming.

All of a sudden I come up to a 15 foot boulder with a sheer face on the south southwest side of the boulder. On that face, was a honeycomb attached from the very top of the boulder and extending downward about 5 feet or more. I stop dead in my tracks about 20 feet away and just stare motionless at the huge exposed honeycomb. I thought this was very odd because bees don't usually expose their honeycombs to the outside elements. Nevertheless there it was, with 1000s of bees doing their thing.

I am watching this spectacle when all of a sudden ONE BEE comes out of that hive and heads straight towards me and before I know it, it nails me at the base of my neck, where the skin covers the trachea.

I was stunned because I was just standing there within what I thought was a safe distance from the hive. Without thinking I look down between my feet and there is the dying attacker writhing around. Then I reach to my neck and instinctively pull the stinger out still stuck in me. Of course, that was the dumbest thing to do because before I got the stinger out, I squeezed the venom sack and fully injected the dying bee's venom into my skin and I instantly felt fire.

I conseqently got the hell out of there, thinking that the whole hive would come after me.

One of the weirdest things I EVAR saw. Anyway, I enjoy all of these that you have written so far please keep it up.

I like you, I'll kill you last. - Killer Clown
The ScuttledMonkey: A Story Collection

That was likely a guard bee. (3.00 / 7) (#4)
by xC0000005 on Sun May 07, 2006 at 01:07:00 PM EST

I'm writing another story on swarms, what makes them go (well, as far as we know, which isn't all that far), and how they select a location. Open air hives are usually the result of a swarm that couldn't find a more suitable location. They gathered at a particular outcropping, and couldn't find any place better. Soon they have comb built and brood there. Then there's no leaving.

Free comb like that can be huge.

As for that bee - guard bees do that - the "straight at ya" movement. Bees that are in hives with little motion around them react differently thatn bees with things that move around alot, so in the desert, I bet you stood out pretty well.

Pictures of the boxes themselves would bore you to tears (here's a green wooden box. Here's another one).

You can see some pictures on my "how to hive a package" page at this page.

Voice of the Hive - Beekeeping and Bees for those who don't
[ Parent ]

neat story!!! i like it.. (2.50 / 1) (#3)
by dakini on Sun May 07, 2006 at 12:49:12 PM EST



" May your vision be clear, your heart strong, and may you always follow your dreams."
Genetically speaking, (2.50 / 1) (#6)
by vectro on Sun May 07, 2006 at 04:28:55 PM EST

Wouldn't it make more sense for a princess to stay silent in her cell, so that she is not (potentially) murdered by her half-sister? I don't see the selective advantage to announcing oneself to the executioner.

“The problem with that definition is just that it's bullshit.” -- localroger
For the individual bee, yes, for the species (none / 0) (#7)
by xC0000005 on Sun May 07, 2006 at 07:04:37 PM EST

the selection to favor early emergence is critical.

Voice of the Hive - Beekeeping and Bees for those who don't
[ Parent ]
Nope, and Yes... (none / 1) (#11)
by daveybaby on Mon May 08, 2006 at 08:07:43 AM EST

Not critical for the species, its critical for the individual. However, for honeybees and many other social insects the individual (in terms of natural selection) is the hive, not a single bee or even a queen.

[ Parent ]
Hhhmmm (none / 0) (#12)
by levesque on Mon May 08, 2006 at 08:40:05 AM EST

An individual is a group dimension

[ Parent ]
Yup (none / 1) (#22)
by thefirelane on Mon May 08, 2006 at 12:30:57 PM EST

This fact is well known by all the single cell organisms called 'white blood cells' that gladly sacrifice themselves for their 'colony'

-
Prube.com: Like K5, but with less point.
[ Parent ]
Hhhmm (none / 0) (#48)
by levesque on Tue May 09, 2006 at 05:07:00 PM EST

A group dimension of subgroup dimensions, within group dimensions.



[ Parent ]

So, the exception to this (3.00 / 2) (#25)
by xC0000005 on Mon May 08, 2006 at 12:58:12 PM EST

is what I didn't get into (it happens in swarming, never heard of it in supercedure). In swarming, there's a lot of virgin queens running around, and the workers will sometimes not allow them to fight, or they won't allow them to kill the unhatched queens. The hive swarms, then then swarms again (and again, in some cases). Each swarm is smaller and smaller (some call the small swarms "castings"). These will attempt to establish a hive, then the queen will mate. Though the queen bee is the heart of the hive, she is by no means the ruler - that falls to the field bees (mostly). She "rules" at their whim.

Voice of the Hive - Beekeeping and Bees for those who don't
[ Parent ]
Yeah (none / 0) (#37)
by daveybaby on Tue May 09, 2006 at 05:27:02 AM EST

supercedure and swarming are completely different processes for different needs, thus the behaviour of the queens and workers will be different in each case.

I suspect that the size and number of swarms is related to things like weather/temperature and food availability, but i guess it could be down to any number of things in reality.

[ Parent ]

Yeah, it's a number of things. (none / 0) (#47)
by xC0000005 on Tue May 09, 2006 at 01:26:24 PM EST

I've read reports of observation hives (sometimes single framed(!) casting multiple swarms. Literally just a handful of bees going with each one. Go figure.

Voice of the Hive - Beekeeping and Bees for those who don't
[ Parent ]
Mmh. (none / 0) (#49)
by vectro on Tue May 09, 2006 at 06:42:41 PM EST

The unit of natural selection is neither the individual, nor the species: It is the gene. This explanation makes possible otherwise odd phenomena: For example, some mammals have a gene that, when only present on one allele, kills the 50% of sperm that don't carry it. Even though the gene is detremental to the individual, it is beneficial to itself.

What I am imagining here is this: Consider two princesses P and Q. We assume here that Q emerges first, because otherwise things are not interesting. If P makes noise, she will die. P's genes then have no chance for survival. If P remains silent, she will probably still die -- and perhaps bring the colony down with her. But the chance of the survival of her genes is nonzero, therefore better, therefore more likely to be passed on.

That said, there is a selective pressure for the princesses to make noise, which takes place in later generations. If you have a hive whose princesses all remain silent, its chances of survival are much less than that of a neighboring hive which follows the existing behavior.

In other words, as long as there are few hives that show this behavior, the benefits of remaining silent are great. But as the behavior becomes more common, it also becomes more costly.

This last analysis is actually common in a lot of social environments: Consider the behavior of stealing from the tribe or pack, for example. In that case, though, the selective pressure against the individual is increased even more by the addition of punishment. Which raises the question: If a princess did remain silent, would the hive act out against her in some other way?

“The problem with that definition is just that it's bullshit.” -- localroger
[ Parent ]

Presumably... (none / 0) (#8)
by BJH on Mon May 08, 2006 at 12:49:50 AM EST

...natural selection has proven that more bees survive when all potential queens pip.
--
Roses are red, violets are blue.
I'm schizophrenic, and so am I.
-- Oscar Levant

[ Parent ]
last night while playing Nethack (2.80 / 5) (#15)
by rpresser on Mon May 08, 2006 at 10:17:56 AM EST

I polymorphed myself into a queen (killer) bee. I promptly laid a dozen eggs, knowing that they would become pet killer bees after hatching. Unfortunately, Nethack's realism broke down a bit ... two of the eggs I laid were "queen bee eggs".
------------
"In terms of both hyperbolic overreaching and eventual wrongness, the Permanent [Republican] Majority has set a new, and truly difficult to beat, standard." --rusty
Nethack! (none / 0) (#16)
by terryfunk on Mon May 08, 2006 at 11:16:58 AM EST

I've played that for years. I wish someone would do a decent story/article on that game.

I like you, I'll kill you last. - Killer Clown
The ScuttledMonkey: A Story Collection

[ Parent ]
I play it constantly (none / 0) (#20)
by rpresser on Mon May 08, 2006 at 12:14:06 PM EST

well, extremely frequently anyhow.  I wrote a patch for it too, an "epitaph" patch that lets you write your own epitaph when you die, to be saved on your gravestone in the bones file (if a grave is created).  Wasn't that well received, people said it would be used for cheating (for example: There is a gravestone here. The inscription reads "the boots in this pile are +3 blessed fireproof speed boots, lucky you".)
------------
"In terms of both hyperbolic overreaching and eventual wrongness, the Permanent [Republican] Majority has set a new, and truly difficult to beat, standard." --rusty
[ Parent ]
Thats one of those games (none / 1) (#24)
by xC0000005 on Mon May 08, 2006 at 12:44:25 PM EST

I want to enjoy, but don't. I have no idea what it is I'm supposed to do in it (other than not get eaten) and I usually starve to death. :)

Voice of the Hive - Beekeeping and Bees for those who don't
[ Parent ]
It's hard. (none / 0) (#29)
by danro on Mon May 08, 2006 at 06:20:59 PM EST

It's hard to beat the game.
In fact, it is incredibly hard.
I've never even been close to ascending.

I recommend reading some spoilers (but don't savescum or cheat in other ways) to better your odds a bit.I found that having some kind of idea what the hell you are doing helps immensly.

[ Parent ]
Samesame. (none / 0) (#38)
by daveybaby on Tue May 09, 2006 at 05:32:57 AM EST

I do enjoy rogue-like games, and have played quite a few of them over the years (e.g. moria, ADOM, dungeon crawl), but nethack is on a whole other level of hard. For all its depth and variety, it seems you only have 1 real choice to make in the game: death by starvation or death by poisoning.

[ Parent ]
Thats not fair... (none / 1) (#40)
by danro on Tue May 09, 2006 at 05:57:42 AM EST

Thats not really fair to the game.
You have a wide variety of causes of death to choose from.

I once got about 30% of the way only to choke to death.
On a carrot.

Didn't play nethack again for 6 months after that.

[ Parent ]
Don't eat when satiated. (none / 0) (#43)
by rpresser on Tue May 09, 2006 at 10:05:31 AM EST

Would you eat when satiated in real life?
------------
"In terms of both hyperbolic overreaching and eventual wrongness, the Permanent [Republican] Majority has set a new, and truly difficult to beat, standard." --rusty
[ Parent ]
Well, I know that now. /nt (none / 0) (#44)
by danro on Tue May 09, 2006 at 10:30:35 AM EST



[ Parent ]
A few tips (3.00 / 2) (#42)
by rpresser on Tue May 09, 2006 at 10:04:00 AM EST

To avoid death by starvation, keep moving. There is a shortage of food on the first four levels or so.

To avoid death by poisoning, learn what monsters are poisonous. For the monsters you'll see early on, d, G, h, f, : are all generally safe. k and a are almost never safe. F is sometimes safe, depends on the exact monster: lichen corpses are always safe, yellow molds or violet fungus are not.  Only eat fresh corpses that have died in the last 10-12 turns; older corpses can make you sick, even older ones can give you food poisoning, which is fatal unless cured.

To avoid death by being beaten on, learn to RUN AWAY. Let your pet fight your battles for you. Use ranged weapons -- i.e., throw rocks or daggers or darts, or shoot arrows or crossbow bolts if you have a bow or crossbow. Use wands or spells if you have them.

Daggers are my favorite ranged weapon, because they never get lost after use, as arrows, bolts and darts do. Rocks are a good second.

To avoid death by surprising magical objects, don't use unidentified scrolls or potions. Wait for a scroll of identify. Learn to price-ID in the shops - scroll of identify is always the cheapest scroll.

------------
"In terms of both hyperbolic overreaching and eventual wrongness, the Permanent [Republican] Majority has set a new, and truly difficult to beat, standard." --rusty
[ Parent ]

Blessed +7 silver arrows! (none / 0) (#53)
by tetsuwan on Wed May 10, 2006 at 08:49:11 AM EST

I thought vanishing projectiles were a real nuisance (50% of uncursed are lost after a hit), but then I realised that blessed projectiles only are lost every 50 or 100 hits. This makes even shuriken useful. My ranger is totally walking death.

Daggers are really good though, I agree.

Njal's Saga: Just like Romeo & Juliet without the romance
[ Parent ]

Most excellent bee-lore (none / 1) (#18)
by Hugh Jass on Mon May 08, 2006 at 11:34:21 AM EST

Thanks, 3221225477.

"In war the moral is to the physical, as three to one." - Bonaparte

I have wondered if this is his phone no. /nt (none / 0) (#19)
by terryfunk on Mon May 08, 2006 at 11:36:58 AM EST



I like you, I'll kill you last. - Killer Clown
The ScuttledMonkey: A Story Collection

[ Parent ]
It's an exception code. (none / 1) (#23)
by xC0000005 on Mon May 08, 2006 at 12:40:53 PM EST

Under Windows, 0xC means it's an exception, then basically the rest is the the error code. In this case, 5 means "Access is Denied", aka an Access Violation.

Voice of the Hive - Beekeeping and Bees for those who don't
[ Parent ]
Good to know (3.00 / 2) (#26)
by Hugh Jass on Mon May 08, 2006 at 01:23:55 PM EST

Cause the guy at that phone number is getting really pissed at me.

"In war the moral is to the physical, as three to one." - Bonaparte
[ Parent ]

322 (none / 0) (#30)
by guyjin on Mon May 08, 2006 at 09:45:12 PM EST

not a valid area code.

http://www.cs.ucsd.edu/users/bsy/area.html
-- 散弾銃でおうがいして ください
[ Parent ]

You actually went and looked that up? (none / 1) (#31)
by Hugh Jass on Mon May 08, 2006 at 11:08:56 PM EST

You scare me, man.

"In war the moral is to the physical, as three to one." - Bonaparte
[ Parent ]

Oh wait (none / 1) (#32)
by Hugh Jass on Mon May 08, 2006 at 11:09:48 PM EST

Area code has a 0 or 1 in the middle digit, right?

I take it all back.

"In war the moral is to the physical, as three to one." - Bonaparte
[ Parent ]

Oh wait (none / 1) (#33)
by Hugh Jass on Mon May 08, 2006 at 11:15:05 PM EST

That's not true anymore.

I retract my take-back.


"In war the moral is to the physical, as three to one." - Bonaparte
[ Parent ]

Well written (2.50 / 1) (#27)
by eMb on Mon May 08, 2006 at 04:53:42 PM EST

As a newcomer, this is the second article by you I've read. Thanks.

a bit overdramatised maybe, but good fun (none / 1) (#34)
by danny on Tue May 09, 2006 at 01:41:24 AM EST

A great way to teach natural history!

For those who want more, I recommend the Scientific American Library work The Honey Bee (link is to my review).

Danny.
[900 book reviews and other stuff]

My intent (none / 0) (#35)
by xC0000005 on Tue May 09, 2006 at 02:11:46 AM EST

is to create a minor attachment, or fascination with the processes that drive a composit organism, in order to retain the reader's attention through the bits that convey more standard information. Yes, I chose more dramatic terms :).

Voice of the Hive - Beekeeping and Bees for those who don't
[ Parent ]
Well, it's working. (none / 0) (#41)
by danro on Tue May 09, 2006 at 06:02:48 AM EST

Well, it's working. I'm riveted.

My brother told me yesturday that he has decided to start up a few hives next year to keep his plants happy.
I'll tell him to check out your stuff.

[ Parent ]
shouldn't this be in 'science'? -nt (1.50 / 1) (#36)
by b4b0 on Tue May 09, 2006 at 02:14:30 AM EST


WHORING: http://www.chrakworld.com
Just got my bees 2 days ago (none / 0) (#45)
by peace on Tue May 09, 2006 at 12:37:47 PM EST

A friend of mine split off a nuc from one of his hives and gave it to me as a gift.  I've been watching them get organized, establish their home base and explore their new territory for resources.  They have been without a Queen since Sunday but the Queen is arriving today.  This will be the first time I open the hive to see how it is fairing.  I'm curious if they are attempting to hatch a new queen out of the brood combs that came with the nuc.

Even without a queen they are out harvesting, drinking up the water I put out for them, cleaning the hive of carcasses and otherwise looking like a fully functional hive.  The level of activity is simply mesmarizing.

-peace

Congratulations (none / 0) (#46)
by xC0000005 on Tue May 09, 2006 at 12:53:27 PM EST

May your keeping experience go smoothly. I have queens arriving by mail today as well (making a nuc), and I'd advise you to tear out any queen cells they may have built. Emergency queens almost always do poorly. Tear them out, hang your new queen in her cage, and you are off and running. Good luck.

Voice of the Hive - Beekeeping and Bees for those who don't
[ Parent ]
are you concerned about killer bees? (none / 0) (#50)
by RelliK on Tue May 09, 2006 at 09:23:55 PM EST

I saw a documentary about killer bees that said they are now very common in the southern US and are steadily moving north. They are genetically compatible with european bees but are more likely to be selected (probably because of their agressive nature).
---
Under capitalism man exploits man, under communism it's just the opposite.
Not so much. (none / 0) (#51)
by xC0000005 on Wed May 10, 2006 at 12:44:34 AM EST

Their tendency to swarm is high, leaving them vulnerable in colder climates.

Voice of the Hive - Beekeeping and Bees for those who don't
[ Parent ]
hey (none / 0) (#55)
by dogeye on Wed May 10, 2006 at 09:56:16 PM EST

The opposite of man exploits man would be man nurtures man!

[ Parent ]
I might note... (none / 0) (#57)
by BJH on Sat May 13, 2006 at 03:22:21 AM EST

...that TEH DREADED KILLAR BEEZ have been steadily moving north for about 30 years now.
--
Roses are red, violets are blue.
I'm schizophrenic, and so am I.
-- Oscar Levant

[ Parent ]
30 years? Man, that's slow! (1.50 / 0) (#58)
by United Fools on Sun May 14, 2006 at 12:24:37 AM EST

It should not take 30 years to reach the North Pole, not mentioning they have not reach there yet!

We are united, we are fools, and we are America!
[ Parent ]
Are you sure of what you wrote? (1.50 / 1) (#52)
by United Fools on Wed May 10, 2006 at 01:59:15 AM EST

The Borg Queen in Star Trek does not behave the way you described. We never saw her laying eggs.

We are united, we are fools, and we are America!
The borg were about to swarm. (none / 0) (#54)
by xC0000005 on Wed May 10, 2006 at 10:18:21 AM EST

Every time we saw them, they were getting ready to swarm, which is why the borg queen had slimmed down and wasn't laying eggs. The borg will abandon their current cube, and take up residence in a new one. What Star Trek doesn't tell you is that the last time, they were moving into a oven box in orbit around the earth.

Voice of the Hive - Beekeeping and Bees for those who don't
[ Parent ]
Ya (none / 1) (#56)
by R3X on Fri May 12, 2006 at 01:14:32 AM EST

Yes, life is so tough for bees (rolls eyes)
Kick & Push
i know it's wierd... (none / 1) (#59)
by ShiftyStoner on Sun May 14, 2006 at 06:43:03 PM EST

but this story caused a little action in my pants, just a little though, i swear.
( @ )'( @ ) The broad masses of a population are more amenable to the appeal of rhetoric than to any other force. - Adolf Hitler
Tales of the Hive: The Drive to Thrive | 59 comments (51 topical, 8 editorial, 0 hidden)
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