Hemipachnobia subporphyrea - (Walker, 1858)
Venus Flytrap Cutworm
Other English Common Names: Venus flytrap cutworm
Taxonomic Status: Accepted
Related ITIS Name(s): Hemipachnobia subporphyrea (Walker, 1858) (TSN 771397)
Unique Identifier: ELEMENT_GLOBAL.2.115935
Element Code: IILEYLX010
Informal Taxonomy: Animals, Invertebrates - Insects - Butterflies and Moths - Other Moths
 
Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family Genus
Animalia Mandibulata Insecta Lepidoptera Noctuidae Hemipachnobia
Genus Size: B - Very small genus (2-5 species)
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Concept Reference
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Concept Reference: Lafontaine, J.D. and B. C. Schmidt. 2010. Annotated check list of the Noctuoidea (Insecta, Lepidoptera) of North America north of Mexico. ZooKeys 40:1-239.
Concept Reference Code: A10LAF01EHUS
Name Used in Concept Reference: Hemipachnobia subporphyrea
Taxonomic Comments: Except that the true Type Locality (supposedly Georgia) is unknown, all records outside of southeastern North Carolina are apparently incorrect except for one site in Maryland. H. monochromatea has generally been treated as a northern subspecies since Forbes (1954) until being restored to species status by Lafontaine (1998). There are several differences in the male genitalia and at least one in the female genitalia. The easiest difference to see is that H. subporphyrea has three projections near the tip of the male valve while the valve tip of H. monochromatea is more rounded and has only one projection (illustrated by McDunnough, 1929 and Lafontaine, 1998). Also monochromatea has a huge projection off the juxta while that of subporphyrea is much thinner and perhaps more erect. Males from a Maryland population have genitalia like those of H. subporphyrea although the projections on the valves of at least one of the first two dissected males appeared to be more equal in size than on the illustration (Plate II: 5) in Lafontaine (1998). Subsequently J. D. Lafontaine has found no consistent genitalia difference between this population and H. subporphyrea from further south and genetic bar codes also suggest they are the same species. Lafontaine and Schmidt (2010, note 643) explicitly state that H. subporphyrea occurs in southeast North Carolina and eastern Maryland. Adults from the Maryland population apparently cannot be separated by any superficial characters from specimens from about 200 km to the east in New Jersey and presumably also feed on Drosera like H. monochromatea. Venus fly trap (the only verified foodplant for H. subporphyrea) does not occur north of southeastern North Carolina. Populations in both places contain a slightly darker more purplish phenotype not seen farther north, but at least in New Jersey most are not of this coloration. New Jersey males of both color forms have been dissected by several persons and all have normal H. monochromatea genitalia and as noted by Lafontaine (1998) that species occurs down the coast into northern North Carolina. Although polymorphisms involving genitalia characters such as valve spines have been occasionally reported in the Noctuidae (e.g. Schweitzer, 1979), the multiple genitalia differences seem too great to justify treating the two taxa of Hemipachnobia as subspecies. This disjunction in the range of H. subporphyrea between eastern Maryland and the range of Venus fly trap in North Carolina is currently inexplicable, although either or both species could turn up in the intervening area. It is also still possible that H. subporphyrea might occur in New Jersey since most specimens from there have not been dissected. Dale Schweitzer, October, 2010.
Conservation Status
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NatureServe Status

Global Status: G1
Global Status Last Reviewed: 27Sep2011
Global Status Last Changed: 18Sep1999
Ranking Methodology Used: Ranked by calculator
Rounded Global Status: G1 - Critically Imperiled
Reasons: The foodplant in North Carolina is Venus flytrap which itself has a very limited range and is ranked G3. Apparently the great majority of populations of the foodplant no longer support this moth, including the largest one. Continuing loss of occurrences to succession, excessive prescribed burning, and other factors (such as possibly fire ants) is likely and most populations may be in imminent danger of extirpation. If fire ants are a serious threat, this species may be doomed. If prescribed burning is the primary threat, there is possibility for recovery if a slightly longer rotation were to be adopted soon. At present the widely disjunct Maryland population is not thought to be in jeopardy, but its vulnerability to habitat changes needs to be assessed. For now this is treated as an isolated occurrence and the rank is based on the Carolina occurrences. The Rank Calculator 3.0 rank is G1G2, but the G2 seems based on the possibility that there are still more than five (mostly non-viable) occurrences, and is untenable unless new information were to show that the global status of this species is much different from its status in North Carolina where it is close to extirpation and has been ranked "S1?" since even before the current decline. Except at the Maryland site, threats appear to be extreme in the short term at all known occurrences.
Nation: United States
National Status: NNR
Nation: Canada
National Status: NNR

U.S. & Canada State/Province Status
Due to latency between updates made in state, provincial or other NatureServe Network databases and when they appear on NatureServe Explorer, for state or provincial information you may wish to contact the data steward in your jurisdiction to obtain the most current data. Please refer to our Distribution Data Sources to find contact information for your jurisdiction.
United States Indiana (SNR), Maryland (SNR), North Carolina (S1?), Vermont (SNR)

Other Statuses

NatureServe Global Conservation Status Factors

Range Extent: <100-1000 square km (less than about 40-400 square miles)
Range Extent Comments: Except for one population in Anne Arundel County in eastern Maryland, this species is known only from the small portion Atlantic Coastal Plain where Venus fly trap is native in southeastern North Carolina and it probably extended, with that plant, slightly into South Carolina South Carolina. The type specimen allegedly came from Georgia, but John Abbott, who collected it, is known to have visited Wilmington, North Carolina, which seems like a more likely source. So far the only known population of the genus found between the Carolina and Maryland parts of the range is in Dare County, North Carolina and specimens examined are H. monochromatea. Based on occurrence on the Maryland eastern shore, H. subporphyrea would seem likely to occur in southern New Jersey, but those specimens from there that have been dissected are H. monochromatea.

Area of Occupancy: 1-125 4-km2 grid cells
Area of Occupancy Comments:  

Number of Occurrences: 1 - 20
Number of Occurrences Comments: Scattered in 3 or more counties in southeastern NC (1970's-1990's) with an odd isolated occurrence in Anne Arundel county, Maryland. Apparently absent from most suitable habitats based on recent surveys by Steve Hall and others. For up to date information on exact number of currently known occurrences contact Steve Hall at North Carolina Naturall Heritage.

Population Size: 50 - 2500 individuals
Population Size Comments: Probably less than 100 adults per generation at most or all occurrences.

Number of Occurrences with Good Viability/Integrity: None to few (0-12)
Viability/Integrity Comments: The viability of the isolated Maryland population is unknown. Otherwise (Steve Hall in Schweitzer et al., 2011) very inappropriate fire management, or in one case, none at all makes all other known populations, at best, very precarious. The fact most large flytrap populations lack this moth suggests occurrences may be very vulnerable to something. Available evidence points to short rotations (one or two years) in prescribed burning, but there could be other factors. Another major occurrence from the 1990s which is on a Nature Conservancy preserve is close to extirpation due to succession resulting from lack of fires.

Overall Threat Impact: Very high - high
Overall Threat Impact Comments: Much habitat destroyed already and more continues to disappear and in the core range in North Carolina, all of the few remaining populations are seriously threatened by very inappropriate fire regimes. The following is based on extensive recent survey work in North Carolina (Hall and Sullivan, 2000, 2004, 2005) and was written by Steve Hall for Schweitzer et al. (2011). " This species is sensitive to both too-frequent and too-infrequent fire. Field surveys indicate numbers appear to be strongly reduced following a fire and populations may become extirpated under conditions of annual to semiannual burning. Apparently, due to an artificially high fire frequency the largest known populations of flytraps in the artillery-impact areas of the Camp Lejeune Marine Corps Base do not support H. subporphyrea. Conversely, a formerly vigorous population located on a Nature Conservancy preserve has nearly vanished due to prolonged fire suppression. Venus flytraps themselves survive for only a few years under conditions of deep thatch build up and stop producing leaves after an even shorter period. Division of habitat into at least three burn units, with only one unit burned per year in an orderly rotation, appears to provide good conditions for this species. The largest known population of the moth was located at a site where these conditions prevailed, with individuals being captured at multiple sites across this metapopulation over a multi-year period. However, with a change to a two-year fire rotation, the Venus flytrap cutworm moth has declined markedly, and the population at this site is no longer regarded as the globally best example. Poaching of the host plant is a well-known problem, and has lead to the extirpation of several populations of at least the plant and likely also of the moth. Build up of a high density of fire ant colonies is believed to be responsible for the loss of at least one population of the moth previously occupying an isolated area of semi-natural habitat; however, where their populations are more dispersed all known populations of the moth coexist with fire ants. Whether fire ant densities will remain low in the North Carolina savannas or increase dramatically as they have in the Gulf Coast states is unknown. Preserves containing this moth should be monitored regularly to detect any change in fire ant density."

Absence from places like Camp Lejeune and the Green Swamp Preserve (much of which was and may still be burned annually) obviously indicates some sort of threat to the moth that does not negatively impact the foodplant. The preponderance of evidence clearly points to extreme fire frequencies as a major cause of decline of this moth. Illegal collecting of Venus Flytraps is a problem in some places.

Short-term Trend: Decline of 10-50%
Short-term Trend Comments: Ongoing status survey work suggests continuing decline due to succession at one site and excessive prescribed burning at other known occurrences, except for the one in Maryland.

Long-term Trend: Decline of >70%
Long-term Trend Comments: Quite possibly more than 99% decline since 1750 and less speculatively more than 50% since the 1980s. This species could not have maintained itself for long at numbers comparable to those of recent decades.

Intrinsic Vulnerability: Highly vulnerable
Intrinsic Vulnerability Comments: May well have to recolonize after most summer fires. If so isolated EOs may well be unprotectable. Habitat often needs fire. Obviously more likely to be lost at a given site than the foodplant itself is. Very likely some current absences reflect past disturbances from which the plant recovered but the moth could not.

Environmental Specificity: Very narrow. Specialist or community with key requirements scarce.

Other NatureServe Conservation Status Information

Inventory Needs: Needs to be sought at blacklight or at night on flowers (April-May) in areas with a lot of venus flytrap.

Protection Needs: Any large population should be protected. Protection will probably involve fire to maintain habitat and foodplant. Venus flytrap area should be divided into two or more burn units that are not burned in the same year, ideally not in consecutive years, at least until response of this species to fire is better understood. On the other hand habitat probably would become unsuitable with absence of fire for more than about five years. On small sites winter mowing might be suitable management.

Distribution
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Global Range: (<100-1000 square km (less than about 40-400 square miles)) Except for one population in Anne Arundel County in eastern Maryland, this species is known only from the small portion Atlantic Coastal Plain where Venus fly trap is native in southeastern North Carolina and it probably extended, with that plant, slightly into South Carolina South Carolina. The type specimen allegedly came from Georgia, but John Abbott, who collected it, is known to have visited Wilmington, North Carolina, which seems like a more likely source. So far the only known population of the genus found between the Carolina and Maryland parts of the range is in Dare County, North Carolina and specimens examined are H. monochromatea. Based on occurrence on the Maryland eastern shore, H. subporphyrea would seem likely to occur in southern New Jersey, but those specimens from there that have been dissected are H. monochromatea.

U.S. States and Canadian Provinces

Due to latency between updates made in state, provincial or other NatureServe Network databases and when they appear on NatureServe Explorer, for state or provincial information you may wish to contact the data steward in your jurisdiction to obtain the most current data. Please refer to our Distribution Data Sources to find contact information for your jurisdiction.

Map unavailable!:
Distribution data for U.S. states and Canadian provinces is known to be incomplete or has not been reviewed for this taxon.
Endemism: endemic to a single state or province

U.S. & Canada State/Province Distribution
United States IN, MD, NC, VT

Range Map
No map available.


U.S. Distribution by County Help
State County Name (FIPS Code)
NC Bladen (37017)*, Brunswick (37019), Carteret (37031), Columbus (37047), Pender (37141)
* Extirpated/possibly extirpated
U.S. Distribution by Watershed Help
Watershed Region Help Watershed Name (Watershed Code)
03 White Oak River (03020301)+, New River (03020302)+, Lower Cape Fear (03030005)+, Black (03030006)+*, Northeast Cape Fear (03030007)+, Waccamaw (03040206)+
+ Natural heritage record(s) exist for this watershed
* Extirpated/possibly extirpated
Ecology & Life History
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Basic Description: Venus flytrap cutworm
General Description: A large reddish brown spring noctuid with a frosted terminal area and feathered antenna on the males.
Diagnostic Characteristics: The large size, forewing 17-20 mm and total expanse at least 34 mm, plus the frosted appearance of the terminal area of the forewing are diagnostic, and the genitalia are also very distinctive (Lafontaine, 1998). There are numerous differences in the valve, uncus and vesica. The easiest difference to see is that H. SUBPORPHYREA has three finger like projections near the tip of the valve while H. MONOCHROMATEA has only one (illustrated by McDunnough, 1929). Also MONOCHROMATEA has a huge projection off the uncus that SUBPORPHYREA lacks. See Lafontaine (1998) for illustrations of the adult and male genitalia of both species, but in practice it appears the ranges do not overlap and if that is true any Hemipachnobia in southestern North Carolina, and none anywhere else, would be H. subpophyrea.
Non-Migrant: N
Locally Migrant: N
Long Distance Migrant: N
Palustrine Habitat(s): Bog/fen, FORESTED WETLAND, SCRUB-SHRUB WETLAND
Habitat Comments: Habitat is large stands of venus fly trap in wet pine savannas, around pocosins etc. Fire patterns may also affect suitability.
Immature Food Habits: Herbivore
Food Comments: The larva feeds on venus fly trap and so far as known nothing else. However since H. MONOCHROMATEA larvae often switch to Ericaceae in the late instars, this one may sometimes do likewise.
Adult Phenology: Nocturnal
Phenology Comments: Adults occur in spring, varying from late March to early May over the years, but mostly around mid April. The egg and pupal stage should be brief so about 10 months or more are spent as larvae. Last instar larvae hibernate, and pupate in spring.
Economic Attributes Not yet assessed
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Management Summary
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Biological Research Needs: Need to better understand the fire sensitivity of the larva and other stages. Would be useful to determine if the larvae can switch to Ericaceae in later instars as the related northern species does. Research into reasons for apparent absence from major stands of the foodplant would be useful.
Population/Occurrence Delineation
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Use Class: Not applicable
Minimum Criteria for an Occurrence: An occurrence is an area supporting a population of Venus Flytraps where larvae of this moth occur, or have recently occurred, and the immediately adjacent or intervening habitats. Documentation is usually by a specimen of the moth, but larvae or possibly feeding signs (S. Hall work in progress) might be useful.
Mapping Guidance: If the species is present at all the local patches of Venus flytrap should define the EO boundaries unless some portions of the habitat are known to be persistently unsuitable for the larvae, perhaps due to annual burning or because the plants are in poor condition due to lack of any fires..
Separation Distance for Unsuitable Habitat: 2 km
Separation Distance for Suitable Habitat: 6 km
Separation Justification: This is now an extremely reduced, fragmented species. Nevertheless colonies are clustered in substantial wet savanna complexes, which tend to have some flytraps between the main sites, either in natural openings or along paths and roads, such that these intervening habitat patches are at times suitable and the suitable habitat distance should be applied. This species usually must recolonize after at least winter fires (maybe essentially all fires) and the habitat generally needs fire to persist, so individual colonies are not reasonable conservation units and a meaningful viable occurrence must contain several substantial foodplant patches that do not burn at the same time. Distances between main colonies are often a few kilometers. The species can show up in places where it had been absent, or disappeared for one season after a fire, and in the past even colonized cultivated flytraps. Some habitat patches are 100 hectares, a few much more, some much less. There obviously is some movement between flytrap patches and Steve Hall who knows this species' ecology better than any one else suggests the six km distance. He finds distances between major colonies within savanna complexes are often about 2-6 km. The unsuitable habitat figure is more arbitrary and is around the minimum generally used for moths and if anything is perhaps too large. This species does not show up far out of habitat and movement out of wet savanna habitats is apparently minimal.

Inferred Minimum Extent of Habitat Use (when actual extent is unknown): 6 km
Inferred Minimum Extent Justification: IE is the full extent of the savanna complex containing flytrap ptchs up to 6 km from the collection site.
Date: 18Jan2006
Author: Schweitzer, Dale F.
Population/Occurrence Viability
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Excellent Viability: Nothing resembling best historic occurrences covering thousands of hectares of contiguous habitat exists today or is likely to again in the near future. Therefore an A rank should not be used. While one such habitat exists, it is apparently unoccupied--annual fires seem to have wiped out this species.
Good Viability: B rank should be reserved for the few (probably one currently) relatively large metapopulation occurrences that are likely to persist and probably maintain whatever genetic variability this species now has left. These metapopulations should consist of demes in at least three burn units that are not burned in the same year with each burn unit being at least 100 hectares and the total at least 400 hectares, or less preferable but acceptable two such demes each occupying at least 200 hectares for a total of 600 hectares. Population size and density cannot be estimated, at least not for adults, but under good sampling conditions 1 - 3 adults should be expected to be caught per night in a 15 Watt blacklight trap rather consistently. To be considered good, samples should contain more than 50 individuals representing at least 12 of these 24 species that normally co-occur with H. subporphyrea in the same habitats and at the same time of year including: Agrotis carolina, Amolita roseola, Anicla lubricans, Argyrostrotis quadrifilaria, Callosamia securifera, Cleora projecta, Cleora sublunaria, Doryodes n. sp., Dysgonia similis, Egira alternans, Elaphria georgei, Eubaphe meridiana, Glena cognataria, Hethemia pistacearia, Holomelina laeta, Hyalophora cecropia, Lagoa pyxidifera, Metarranthis obfirmaria, Metarranthis lateritiaria, Orthosia revicta, Petrophora divisata, Phytometra rhodarialis, Sphinx gordius, Spilosoma dubia,Tacparia zalisaria. Alternatively larval feeding damage can be used (Hall and Sullivan, 2000, 2004, 2005). At peak population levels, usually reached between three and five years following a burn, feeding damage to flytraps should range between 30 - 50%, with most patches of the plant showing some damage. At least some of the damage should consist of small, circular holes through the traps, which appear to be diagnostic of younger instar larvae.
Fair Viability: The C-rank should be used rather liberally for small or poorly managed occurrences with some reasonable prospect for recovery or persistence. Most two deme metapopulations should qualify if the total habitat is at least 20 hectares, and a non-metapopulation occurrence could if it has a history of persistence at a size comparable to its current size, and/or some feature causes it to burn patchily, but it does burn on average at least twice per decade. This rank could also apply in small habitats where fly traps are somehow maintained in good condition without fires or with a very conservative fire regimen; or in large habitats where management, especially if due to recent changes, is inappropriate--for example due to annual or every other year burning. In the first case management might compensate for limited habitat. In the second situation, extensive habitat might compensate for faunally insensitive management at least in the short term, although this species probably will not persist long with annual burning even with otherwise very good habitat.
Poor Viability: Small remnant populations unlikely to persist, most typically single colonies on a few dozen hectares or less with a fire frequency outside of the apparently acceptable range of once every three to six years. Could also apply where there are unmanaged large and expanding fire ant populations with 50 meters of most of the habitat.
Justification: These SPECS are derived from real experience (Hall, 2000, 2004, 2005) with this species including some as far back as 1991 when it was less rare than now. This species is now absent on most seemingly suitable habitats, including the largest stand of the foodplant, apparently due to nearly annual fires. Some absences are on places that supported populations in the 1980s or 1990s and still support a lot of Venus flytraps. Fire does substantially reduce adult numbers in the next generation presumably because most larvae are killed either directly or perhaps by short term lack of food. In most habitats the foodplant (Venus flytrap) cannot persist in good condition, that is with good leaf production, for much more than about five or six years without fires. At what had been regarded as the globally exemplary occurrence, a switch from a three year to two year fire rotation caused a rapid decline in the population and might yet lead to its eradication. This and observations on the foodplant suggest a fire frequency of every three to five years must be close to optimal. Another smaller occurrence is now either extirpated or on the verge of extirpation after over 10 years without fire. While the plant can occasionally be seen on roadsides, it does not occur in any real abundance except in frequently burned moist pinelands.
Key for Ranking Species Element Occurrences Using the Generic Approach (2008).
Date: 16Feb2007
Author: Hall, Stephen, Schweitzer, Dale F.
U.S. Invasive Species Impact Rank (I-Rank) Not yet assessed
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Authors/Contributors
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NatureServe Conservation Status Factors Edition Date: 27Sep2011
NatureServe Conservation Status Factors Author: Schweitzer, D.F.
Element Ecology & Life History Edition Date: 21Mar2007
Element Ecology & Life History Author(s): SCHWEITZER, D.F.

Zoological data developed by NatureServe and its network of natural heritage programs (see Local Programs) and other contributors and cooperators (see Sources).

References
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  • Forbes, W. T. M. 1954. Lepidoptera of New York and Neighboring States, Noctuidae, Part III. Memoir 329. Cornell Agricultural Experiment Station. Ithaca, NY.

  • Hall, S.P. and Sullivan, J.B. 2005. Status survey for Hemipachnobia subporphyrea based on larval presence and feeding sign. Survey for new populations using feeding damage to Dionaea muscipula Report to US Fish and Wildlife Service, Raleigh Field Office. NC Natural Heritage Program; Raleigh, NC.

  • Hall, S.P. and Sullivan, J.B. 2000. A rangewide status survey of the Venus flytrap moth Hemipachnobia subporphyrea (Lepidoptera: Noctuidae). Report to U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Report, Region 6 Endangered Species Field Office, Asheville, NC.

  • Hall, S.P. and Sullivan, J.B. 2004. Status survey for Hemipachnobia subporphyrea based on larval presence and feeding sign. Interim report on larval rearing and field studies. Report to U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Raleigh Field Office, Raleigh, NC.

  • Hall. S.P., Sullivan, J.B and Schweitzer, D.F. 1999. Assessment of risk to non-target Macro-Moths after Bacillus thuringiensis var. kurstaki application to Asian gypsy moth in the Cape Fear Region of north Carolina. UDSA Forest Service FHTET-98-16, Morgantown, West Virginia 95 pp.

  • Hodges, R.W. et al., eds. 1983. Check List of the Lepidoptera of America North of Mexico. E.W. Classey Limited and The Wedge Entomological Research Foundation, London. 284 pp.

  • LaFontaine, J. D. 1998. Noctuoidea, Noctuidae (part). In Dominick, R.B. et al. The Moths of America North of Mexico. Fascicle 27.3. The Wedge Entomological Research Foundation. 348 pp.

  • Lafontaine, J.D. and B. C. Schmidt. 2010. Annotated check list of the Noctuoidea (Insecta, Lepidoptera) of North America north of Mexico. ZooKeys 40:1-239.

  • McDunnough, J. 1928 [1929]. A generic revision of North American agrotid moths. Bulletin of the Canada Department of Mines 55. 78pp.

  • Schweitzer, D. F. 1979. A revision of the genus Metaxaglaea (Lepidoptera: Noctuidae, Cuculliinae) with descriptions of two new species. Postilla No. 178. Peabody Museum of Natural History, New Haven, Connecticut. 35 pp.

  • Schweitzer, D. F., M. C. Minno, and D. L. Wagner. 2011. Rare, declining, and poorly known butterflies and moths (Lepidoptera) of forests and woodlands in the eastern United States. USFS Forest Health Technology Enterprise Team, Technology Transfer Bulletin FHTET-2011-01. 517 pp.

  • Schweitzer, D.F. 1989. A review of Category 2 Insecta in USFWS regions 3, 4, 5. Prepared for the United States Fish and Wildlife Service.

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