Columbia Silkmoth: All You Need to Know for Enthusiasts

The Columbia Silkmoth (Hyalophora columbia) is an intriguing species with unique features. Known for their size and vibrant colors, these moths are sure to capture your attention. In this article, we will explore all there is to know about the Columbia Silkmoth, from its habitat and lifecycle to its behaviors and traits.

Native to North America, the Columbia Silkmoth makes its home primarily in forests. They can be found nestled among various tree species, such as larch and pine trees. These moths are considered a species of the Kingdom Animalia, specifically belonging to the Genus Hyalophora. More information about their taxonomy can be found at the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service.

A few characteristics of the Columbia Silkmoth include:

  • Large size, with a wingspan ranging from 2.8 to 4.1 inches
  • Vivid colors, often including shades of brown, yellow, and maroon
  • Distinctive wing patterns, marked by crescent-shaped eyespots

In the next paragraphs, we will further discuss this fascinating insect and better understand what sets it apart from other moth species.

Columbia Silkmoth: Basic Information

Scientific Classification

The Columbia Silkmoth, known as Hyalophora columbia, belongs to:

  • Kingdom: Animalia
  • Phylum: Arthropoda
  • Class: Insecta
  • Order: Lepidoptera
  • Family: Saturniidae
  • Genus: Hyalophora
  • Species: H. columbia

Learn more about its classification here.

Distribution and Habitat

Columbia Silkmoths are native to North America, specifically the United States and Canada. They inhabit a range of ecosystems, including forests, grasslands, and wetlands.

Some key features of the Columbia Silkmoth’s habitat include:

  • Availability of host plants for larvae
  • Sheltered areas for resting and concealment
  • Suitable locations for egg-laying

In a comparison with the closely related Sweetbay Silkmoth, we can observe some similarities and differences:

Feature Columbia Silkmoth Sweetbay Silkmoth
Scientific Name Hyalophora columbia Callosamia securifera
Family Saturniidae Saturniidae
Distribution United States, Canada Eastern United States
Habitat Forests, grasslands Forests, wetlands
Larval Host Plants Various species Sweetbay magnolia

The distribution and habitat of the Columbia Silkmoth are essential factors determining its survival, as suitable environments provide necessary resources for its growth, mating, and reproduction.

Biology and Life Cycle

Morphology and Appearance

The Columbia silkmoth (Hyalophora columbia) is a large moth species with distinct features on its wings. Some key characteristics include:

  • Wingspan: 3-4 inches
  • Colors: Brown, tan, and gray with pink accents

Their wings display noticeable eye spots that help in deterring predators. These moths also have a unique hair-like appearance on their thorax and abdomen, adding to their overall charm.

Reproduction and Mating

Columbia silkmoth reproduction begins with mating, occurring primarily in the night. After mating, the females lay numerous eggs, with some key factors being:

  • Egg laying: On host plants
  • Number of eggs: 50-200

The eggs hatch into well-camouflaged caterpillars, who feed exclusively on the host plants. These caterpillars go through multiple growth stages (called instars) before forming a cocoon to transform into an adult moth.

Columbia Silkmoth vs. Other Moths:

Feature Columbia Silkmoth Other Moths
Size Larger (3-4 inch wingspan) Varies (generally smaller)
Coloration Brown, tan, gray & pink accents Diverse (depends on the species)
Eye spots on wings Yes Not always (depends on the species)
Host plants specificity Yes (limited number of host plants) Varies (depends on the species)

As appealing as they may be, Columbia silkmoths are not as common as their other moth counterparts. Their magnificent beauty and fascinating life cycle make them a noteworthy species among moth enthusiasts.

Host Plants and Diet

Common Host Plants

Columbia Silkmoth larvae feed on a variety of host plants. Below are some common ones:

Host Plant Common Name
Larix laricina Tamarack
Purshia tridentata Antelope bitterbrush
Rosa Wild roses
Salix Willows
Eleagnus angustifolius Russian Olive
Ceanothus California lilacs

Feeding on Leaves

Columbia Silkmoth larvae primarily feed on the leaves of their host plants. Some key features of their feeding habits include:

  • They strip leaves from the branches, consuming entire leaves.
  • Larvae prefer young, tender leaves over older, tougher ones.
  • They are nocturnal feeders, meaning they eat at night, minimizing predation risks.

Overall, providing a variety of suitable host plants offers Columbia Silkmoth larvae the best chance to thrive.

Conservation and Legal Aspects

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Policies

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service plays a crucial role in conserving animal species like the Columbia Silkmoth. They implement programs and grants, such as:

  • North American Wetlands Conservation Act (NAWCA): Provides funding for wetlands conservation projects to protect species habitats

Examples of projects under the NAWCA program include:

  • Habitat restoration
  • Invasive species management

Section 508 and Accessibility Requirements

Under the Rehabilitation Act, Section 508 aims to ensure that individuals with disabilities have equal access to information and services. For instance, when sharing information about the Columbia Silkmoth, it’s essential to meet accessibility requirements, such as:

  • Readable website content: Adjust font size, color contrast, and provide alternative text for images
  • Accessible multimedia: Include captions, transcripts, or audio descriptions for videos

Pros and Cons of Section 508 Compliance:

Pros Cons
Increased accessibility Additional time and resources
Better user experience Technical challenges
Legal compliance Limited scope (U.S. only)

In summary, adhering to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service policies and Section 508 accessibility requirements helps protect the Columbia Silkmoth and ensures that relevant information reaches a broader audience.

Resources and Field Guides

The Columbia Silkmoth is an interesting species worth studying. To learn more, one can turn to U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s page on this moth. Field guides can be great resources for information on these creatures:

  • Field Guide: A guide that helps identify and understand the biology and habits of the Columbia Silkmoth.

When comparing field guides, consider the:

  • Amount of information included
  • Organization and clarity of the guide
  • Images and diagrams for identification purposes
Category Field Guide A Field Guide B
Information ✔️ ✔️
Clarity ✔️ ✔️
Images ✔️ ✔️

Features of a useful field guide:

  • Clear illustrations and photographs
  • Detailed species descriptions
  • Distribution maps
  • Caterpillar and adult moth information

Characteristics of the Columbia Silkmoth:

  • Wingspan range: 3-4 inches (7.6-10 cm)
  • Color: creamy to tan
  • Unique markings: conspicuous eyespots on all four wings

Field guides can offer pros and cons in terms of usability:

Pros:

  • Easy to carry and use in the field
  • Comprehensive information on the species

Cons:

  • Can be expensive
  • Limited to the species covered in the specific guide

Reader Emails

Over the years, our website, whatsthatbug.com has received hundreds of letters and some interesting images asking us about these insects. Scroll down to have a look at some of them.

Letter 1 – Columbia Silk moth

 

Moths
I took some digital photos of a moth in Prince George, British Columbia, Canada. I haven’t been able to find a picture on the internet that can tell me which moth it is. The blue beam in the picture is 4″ high by 1-5/8″ wide. That makes the moth about 2-1/4″ tall as it sit (which is about 4-1/2″ of wingspan). There are 4 eggs laid beside this moth, they are pretty close to the size of a BB. Please let me know if you can identify it. Thank you,
Nick Mankwald

Hi Nick
It looks to me like you have a female Columbia Silk Moth, Hyalophora columbia, a smaller and drabber relative of the Cecropia Moth. The Columbia Silk Moth is similar to the Cecropia, but lacking a red band in the hind wing. It is found in forested regions of Canada and New England.

Letter 2 – Columbia Silk Moth

 

Moth at El Morro National Monument
Hi! The staff here at El Morro National Monument (In Northwestern New Mexico) found this moth (alas, dead) on the trail. We want to use the moth to educate people about the native insects but we can’t seem to identify it! I know your site says you are busy but could you please please please help us out? We have a display about butterflies and would love to add this moth but we need to know what it is so we can tell our visitors about it!
Thanks! Megan Allinger

Hi Megan,
This is a Columbia Silk Moth, Hyalophora columbia. It is one of the Giant Silk Moths and it has a very short adult life span. The mature, mate and die without eating.

Letter 3 – Columbia Silk Moth

 

Glover Silkmoth
While visiting your website, I came across one of the caterpillars you identified as Ceanothus Silkmoth. I thought the photo resembled the Glover Silkmoth, are they the same? I live in southern Arizona. I found a glover silkmoth and then began to raise them last year. Here are some photos of the Glover Silkmoths that I raised, one as a caterpillar and one of a male that recently hatched.
Amy

Hi Amy,
Glover’s Silk Moth, Hyalophora columbia gloveri, is a subspecies of the Columbia Silk Moth, Hyalophora columbia, which is found in Arizona. The Columbia Silk Moth is closely related the the Ceanothus Silk Moth, Hyalophora euryalus, which is not found in Arizona. Our identification of that caterpillar was based incorrectly on its range, cince the Ceanothus Silk Moth is found west of the Sierra Nevada Mountains and the Columbia Silk Moth ranging to the east. Thank you for sending us both the caterpillar and adult photo and correcting our earlier error.

Letter 4 – Columbia Silk Moth

 

a large moth
While we were visiting our son’s cottage at Pine Lake, Alberta, Canada, we found this specimen "stuck" to a doorscreen. Since it sat there for the longest time we assumed it was emerging from it’s cocoon. However, this may not be the case at all! It is not exactly like any of the images on your Web site so we would appreciate it very much if you could give a name to this lovely exotic creature. It’s wingspan was approx. 5". A friend suggested it was a Giant Silk Moth. Thanks,
Angela

Hi Angela,
Your moth is a Columbia Silk Moth, Hyalophora columbia, one of the Giant Silk Moths. We have numerous images of them on our Saturnid or Giant Silk Moth pages.

Letter 5 – Columbia Silk Moth

 

Morthra?
Saw this on a home inspection in Arizona. Wingspan was between 4 and 6 inches. Hoping you could help me figure it out. Thanks!
Tom

Hi Tom,
Your moth is Hyalophora columbia, but we are not sure if it is the Columbia Silk Moth, or its subspecies, Glover’s Silk Moth.

Letter 6 – Columbia Silk Moth

 


Hello! I am hoping you can help me identify this pretty moth. We are in the South Central mountains of Idaho, on a small prairie a mile high.
Thank you!
Tracy Stampke

Hi Tracy,
Your moth is a Columbia Silk Moth, Hyalophora columbia. BugGuide lists sightings in most parts of the U.S. excluding the south. It has several relatives in the same genus. The Ceanothus Silk Moth is found along the Pacific states, and the Cecropia moth if found throughout the east.

Letter 7 – Columbia Silkmoth

 

moth id?
hi,
i found your web site and am so glad because i would love to know what kind of moth this is. it may be a common moth, or not. i don’t know but i’ve never seen one before and it is so beautiful. maybe you could recommend a moth field guide that i could use. thanks for any help, and i love your web site.
venice kelly

Hi Venice,
This is a Columbia Silkmoth, Hyalophora columbia. This species has a coast to coast range in North America, with several different subspecies. We have always liked Holland’s Moth Book, but we believe it is out of print.

Letter 8 – Columbia Silkmoth

 

Is it a butterfly or a moth?
March 22, 2010
We found this insect on our porch and was wondering if it was a butterfly or moth? And what type is it?
Curious in AZ
Arizona

Columbia Silkmoth

Dear Curious,
We suspect that the people who are writing in from California insisting that they have seen a Cecropia Moth are in fact encountering either your moth, the Columbia Silkmoth, Hyalophora columbia
, or the Ceanothus Silkmoth, which are in the same genus.  You may see additional photos of the Columbia Silkmoth on BugGuide which indicates:  “Glover’s Silkmoth (H. c. gloveri) was formerly considered a separate species.

Columbia Silkmoth

Letter 9 – Columbia Silkmoth Caterpillar

 

Subject: What is it?
Location: Thunder Bay Ontario Canada
August 9, 2017 6:28 pm
Hi just curious on these 2 types of caterpillars found
Signature: Colin Burridge

Columbia Silkmoth Caterpillar

Dear Colin,
Our research on BugGuide indicates this is a Columbia Silkmoth Caterpillar,
Hyalophora columbia columbia, which is the north eastern subspecies.  According to BugGuide:  “In eastern North America [ssp. columbia], the preferred food of larvae is Tamarack (American Larch – Larix laricina).”

Letter 10 – Columbia Silkmoth from Canada

 

Subject: Moth?
Location: New Brunswick Canada
June 21, 2015 12:16 pm
This bug was in my driveway in New Brunswick Canada in the early morning of June 18th.
Is it a silk moth?
Signature: Wiljo

Columbia Silkmoth
Columbia Silkmoth

Dear Wiljo,
The is indeed a silk moth, more specifically a female Columbia Silkmoth, and you can compare your image to this image posted to BugGuide.

Letter 11 – Domestic Silk Moth

 

Hey!
Hi!
Very interesting website. I stumbled upon it while trying to find out some information. My friend had given me a silkworm cocoon from our work (we sell feeder bugs) as a joke, thinking it wouldn’t open….. and WOW. I haven’t looked at the cocoon for a few days and all of a sudden its there.

Thanks for sending this image of a Domestic Silk Moth, Bombyx mori, though our readers will never encounter one in the wild. According to Charles Hogue in Insects of the Los Angeles Basin: “This is a totally domesticated insect that cannot survive without man’s constant care. The species has been selectively bred for centuries to imporve the quality of its silk. But in the process it has lost its self sufficiency: although its wings remain, they are stunted and weak and no longer serve their original purpose of flight.”

Letter 12 – Correction: Columbia Silkmoth Caterpillar

 

Hi,
We live on the outskirts of Prescott, Arizona, in the forest, and at a slightly higher elevation than the town itself (around 6000 feet high). Anyway, my son found this caterpillar, and we were wondering what it is. I am providing you with two views, hopefully it will be helpful. Thanks!
Lynne LaMaster

Hi Lynne,
Our first inclination would be that this was a Cecropia Moth Caterpillar, but you are west of the typical range. A western species in the same genus is the Ceanothus Silkmoth, Hyalophora euryalus. We searched online for a photo of the caterpillar, and found a site that substantiates our suspicions.

Columbia Silk Moth
(04/23/2007) Glover Silkmoth
While visiting your website, I came across one of the caterpillars you identified as Ceanothus Silkmoth. I thought the photo resembled the Glover Silkmoth, are they the same? I live in southern Arizona. I found a glover silkmoth and then began to raise them last year. Here are some photos of the Glover Silkmoths that I raised, one as a caterpillar and one of a male that recently hatched.
Amy

Hi Amy,
Glover’s Silk Moth, Hyalophora columbia gloveri, is a subspecies of the Columbia Silk Moth, Hyalophora columbia, which is found in Arizona. The Columbia Silk Moth is closely related the the Ceanothus Silk Moth, Hyalophora euryalus, which is not found in Arizona. Our identification of that caterpillar was based incorrectly on its range, cince the Ceanothus Silk Moth is found west of the Sierra Nevada Mountains and the Columbia Silk Moth ranging to the east. Thank you for sending us both the caterpillar and adult photo and correcting our earlier error.

Reader Emails

Over the years, our website, whatsthatbug.com has received hundreds of letters and some interesting images asking us about these insects. Scroll down to have a look at some of them.

Letter 1 – Columbia Silk moth

 

Moths
I took some digital photos of a moth in Prince George, British Columbia, Canada. I haven’t been able to find a picture on the internet that can tell me which moth it is. The blue beam in the picture is 4″ high by 1-5/8″ wide. That makes the moth about 2-1/4″ tall as it sit (which is about 4-1/2″ of wingspan). There are 4 eggs laid beside this moth, they are pretty close to the size of a BB. Please let me know if you can identify it. Thank you,
Nick Mankwald

Hi Nick
It looks to me like you have a female Columbia Silk Moth, Hyalophora columbia, a smaller and drabber relative of the Cecropia Moth. The Columbia Silk Moth is similar to the Cecropia, but lacking a red band in the hind wing. It is found in forested regions of Canada and New England.

Letter 2 – Columbia Silk Moth

 

Moth at El Morro National Monument
Hi! The staff here at El Morro National Monument (In Northwestern New Mexico) found this moth (alas, dead) on the trail. We want to use the moth to educate people about the native insects but we can’t seem to identify it! I know your site says you are busy but could you please please please help us out? We have a display about butterflies and would love to add this moth but we need to know what it is so we can tell our visitors about it!
Thanks! Megan Allinger

Hi Megan,
This is a Columbia Silk Moth, Hyalophora columbia. It is one of the Giant Silk Moths and it has a very short adult life span. The mature, mate and die without eating.

Letter 3 – Columbia Silk Moth

 

Glover Silkmoth
While visiting your website, I came across one of the caterpillars you identified as Ceanothus Silkmoth. I thought the photo resembled the Glover Silkmoth, are they the same? I live in southern Arizona. I found a glover silkmoth and then began to raise them last year. Here are some photos of the Glover Silkmoths that I raised, one as a caterpillar and one of a male that recently hatched.
Amy

Hi Amy,
Glover’s Silk Moth, Hyalophora columbia gloveri, is a subspecies of the Columbia Silk Moth, Hyalophora columbia, which is found in Arizona. The Columbia Silk Moth is closely related the the Ceanothus Silk Moth, Hyalophora euryalus, which is not found in Arizona. Our identification of that caterpillar was based incorrectly on its range, cince the Ceanothus Silk Moth is found west of the Sierra Nevada Mountains and the Columbia Silk Moth ranging to the east. Thank you for sending us both the caterpillar and adult photo and correcting our earlier error.

Letter 4 – Columbia Silk Moth

 

a large moth
While we were visiting our son’s cottage at Pine Lake, Alberta, Canada, we found this specimen "stuck" to a doorscreen. Since it sat there for the longest time we assumed it was emerging from it’s cocoon. However, this may not be the case at all! It is not exactly like any of the images on your Web site so we would appreciate it very much if you could give a name to this lovely exotic creature. It’s wingspan was approx. 5". A friend suggested it was a Giant Silk Moth. Thanks,
Angela

Hi Angela,
Your moth is a Columbia Silk Moth, Hyalophora columbia, one of the Giant Silk Moths. We have numerous images of them on our Saturnid or Giant Silk Moth pages.

Letter 5 – Columbia Silk Moth

 

Morthra?
Saw this on a home inspection in Arizona. Wingspan was between 4 and 6 inches. Hoping you could help me figure it out. Thanks!
Tom

Hi Tom,
Your moth is Hyalophora columbia, but we are not sure if it is the Columbia Silk Moth, or its subspecies, Glover’s Silk Moth.

Letter 6 – Columbia Silk Moth

 


Hello! I am hoping you can help me identify this pretty moth. We are in the South Central mountains of Idaho, on a small prairie a mile high.
Thank you!
Tracy Stampke

Hi Tracy,
Your moth is a Columbia Silk Moth, Hyalophora columbia. BugGuide lists sightings in most parts of the U.S. excluding the south. It has several relatives in the same genus. The Ceanothus Silk Moth is found along the Pacific states, and the Cecropia moth if found throughout the east.

Letter 7 – Columbia Silkmoth

 

moth id?
hi,
i found your web site and am so glad because i would love to know what kind of moth this is. it may be a common moth, or not. i don’t know but i’ve never seen one before and it is so beautiful. maybe you could recommend a moth field guide that i could use. thanks for any help, and i love your web site.
venice kelly

Hi Venice,
This is a Columbia Silkmoth, Hyalophora columbia. This species has a coast to coast range in North America, with several different subspecies. We have always liked Holland’s Moth Book, but we believe it is out of print.

Letter 8 – Columbia Silkmoth

 

Is it a butterfly or a moth?
March 22, 2010
We found this insect on our porch and was wondering if it was a butterfly or moth? And what type is it?
Curious in AZ
Arizona

Columbia Silkmoth

Dear Curious,
We suspect that the people who are writing in from California insisting that they have seen a Cecropia Moth are in fact encountering either your moth, the Columbia Silkmoth, Hyalophora columbia
, or the Ceanothus Silkmoth, which are in the same genus.  You may see additional photos of the Columbia Silkmoth on BugGuide which indicates:  “Glover’s Silkmoth (H. c. gloveri) was formerly considered a separate species.

Columbia Silkmoth

Letter 9 – Columbia Silkmoth Caterpillar

 

Subject: What is it?
Location: Thunder Bay Ontario Canada
August 9, 2017 6:28 pm
Hi just curious on these 2 types of caterpillars found
Signature: Colin Burridge

Columbia Silkmoth Caterpillar

Dear Colin,
Our research on BugGuide indicates this is a Columbia Silkmoth Caterpillar,
Hyalophora columbia columbia, which is the north eastern subspecies.  According to BugGuide:  “In eastern North America [ssp. columbia], the preferred food of larvae is Tamarack (American Larch – Larix laricina).”

Letter 10 – Columbia Silkmoth from Canada

 

Subject: Moth?
Location: New Brunswick Canada
June 21, 2015 12:16 pm
This bug was in my driveway in New Brunswick Canada in the early morning of June 18th.
Is it a silk moth?
Signature: Wiljo

Columbia Silkmoth
Columbia Silkmoth

Dear Wiljo,
The is indeed a silk moth, more specifically a female Columbia Silkmoth, and you can compare your image to this image posted to BugGuide.

Letter 11 – Domestic Silk Moth

 

Hey!
Hi!
Very interesting website. I stumbled upon it while trying to find out some information. My friend had given me a silkworm cocoon from our work (we sell feeder bugs) as a joke, thinking it wouldn’t open….. and WOW. I haven’t looked at the cocoon for a few days and all of a sudden its there.

Thanks for sending this image of a Domestic Silk Moth, Bombyx mori, though our readers will never encounter one in the wild. According to Charles Hogue in Insects of the Los Angeles Basin: “This is a totally domesticated insect that cannot survive without man’s constant care. The species has been selectively bred for centuries to imporve the quality of its silk. But in the process it has lost its self sufficiency: although its wings remain, they are stunted and weak and no longer serve their original purpose of flight.”

Letter 12 – Correction: Columbia Silkmoth Caterpillar

 

Hi,
We live on the outskirts of Prescott, Arizona, in the forest, and at a slightly higher elevation than the town itself (around 6000 feet high). Anyway, my son found this caterpillar, and we were wondering what it is. I am providing you with two views, hopefully it will be helpful. Thanks!
Lynne LaMaster

Hi Lynne,
Our first inclination would be that this was a Cecropia Moth Caterpillar, but you are west of the typical range. A western species in the same genus is the Ceanothus Silkmoth, Hyalophora euryalus. We searched online for a photo of the caterpillar, and found a site that substantiates our suspicions.

Columbia Silk Moth
(04/23/2007) Glover Silkmoth
While visiting your website, I came across one of the caterpillars you identified as Ceanothus Silkmoth. I thought the photo resembled the Glover Silkmoth, are they the same? I live in southern Arizona. I found a glover silkmoth and then began to raise them last year. Here are some photos of the Glover Silkmoths that I raised, one as a caterpillar and one of a male that recently hatched.
Amy

Hi Amy,
Glover’s Silk Moth, Hyalophora columbia gloveri, is a subspecies of the Columbia Silk Moth, Hyalophora columbia, which is found in Arizona. The Columbia Silk Moth is closely related the the Ceanothus Silk Moth, Hyalophora euryalus, which is not found in Arizona. Our identification of that caterpillar was based incorrectly on its range, cince the Ceanothus Silk Moth is found west of the Sierra Nevada Mountains and the Columbia Silk Moth ranging to the east. Thank you for sending us both the caterpillar and adult photo and correcting our earlier error.

Authors

    by
  • Bugman

    Bugman aka Daniel Marlos has been identifying bugs since 1999. whatsthatbug.com is his passion project and it has helped millions of readers identify the bug that has been bugging them for over two decades. You can reach out to him through our Contact Page.

  • Piyushi Dhir

    Piyushi is a nature lover, blogger and traveler at heart. She lives in beautiful Canada with her family. Piyushi is an animal lover and loves to write about all creatures.

4 thoughts on “Columbia Silkmoth: All You Need to Know for Enthusiasts”

  1. I live in Central BC. Canada and i have found a couple of these here.. They look pretty much the same as the ones in the picture. The caterpiller i have not seen, the moth i have and even taken a picture of.. Pretty big for a moth in our parts.

    Reply
  2. Hi there!

    First, Hi Amy — If you are seeing this — where and at what time of year did you find your Glover’s Silkmoth caterpillar?

    And for anyone reading — of the Hyalophora genus, is Glover’s Silk moth the only one that lays eggs in Arizona?

    Thanks! Adam

    Reply
  3. Hi there,

    Amy — or anyone who may know — I am also in S. Arizona and would like to find a caterpillar of the genus hyalophora, as Amy did. Any ideas about when (what time of year) and where to look?

    Thanks,
    Adam

    Reply

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