What Do Trapdoor Spiders Eat: A Quick Guide to Their Diet

Trapdoor spiders are fascinating creatures known for their unique hunting strategies. These spiders reside in silk-lined, underground burrows, waiting patiently for their prey to come close enough for them to strike. As you explore the world of trapdoor spiders, you might be curious about what they eat.

These crafty hunters primarily feed on small insects and other invertebrates that wander near their burrows. Their diet can include a variety of insects like crickets, beetles, and cockroaches. Occasionally, they may even capture small vertebrates such as lizards or frogs if the opportunity arises.

To catch their prey, trapdoor spiders use their lightning-fast reflexes and sharp, powerful fangs. They’ll remain hidden in their burrow, with their specialized door-like camouflage, only revealing themselves when a suitable meal crosses their path. This allows them to ambush unsuspecting insects and bring them down in an instant.

Trapdoor Spiders: An Overview

Trapdoor spiders belong to the infraorder Mygalomorphae and can be found in various families. These fascinating creatures are known for their unique appearance and behavior.

Their most distinct feature is their set of 8 eyes which are arranged in two rows on the front of their cephalothorax. Additionally, these spiders are often well-camouflaged, allowing them to blend in with their surroundings. For example, some species have earthy brown hues, making them nearly invisible in their natural habitats.

Trapdoor spiders earned their name from their exceptional hunting strategy. They live in silk-lined, underground burrows with a hinged door made out of soil, silk, and plant materials. This door remains closed when the spider is inside, hidden from potential predators. When prey passes by, the spider quickly opens the door, captures the prey, and drags it back into the burrow.

These fascinating arachnids primarily feed on insects and other small invertebrates, such as crickets, beetles, and ants. Their diet and hunting habits contribute to their ecological role as both predator and prey in their respective ecosystems.

In summary, trapdoor spiders are fascinating creatures with unique appearances and hunting strategies. They play an important role in their ecosystems by maintaining the balance between predator and prey. Don’t be fooled by their camouflaged appearance; these spiders are truly extraordinary in their own right.

Habitat and Distribution

Trapdoor spiders can be found in a variety of habitats, such as:

  • Australia
  • Europe
  • Southwestern United States
  • Japan
  • South America

These spiders prefer both tropical and temperate regions, allowing for a wider distribution. Their habitats may include forests, grasslands, and even suburban areas.

Trapdoor spiders are known for their burrows, which are silk-lined and located underground. These burrows provide shelter and hunting grounds for the spiders. A notable example is the California trapdoor spider, which resides in the southwestern United States.

Here is a comparison table of the different habitats and distribution of trapdoor spiders:

Region Preferred Habitat Distribution
Australia Forests, grasslands Widespread
Europe Forests, grasslands Widespread
Southwestern U.S. Forests, grasslands, California
suburban areas trapdoor spider
Japan Forests, grasslands Widespread
South America Tropical regions Widespread

Overall, the habitat and distribution of trapdoor spiders vary greatly, making them versatile occupants of the natural world.

Feeding Habits of Trapdoor Spiders

Trapdoor spiders are fascinating creatures with unique feeding habits. These spiders are carnivorous, meaning they primarily eat other animals for sustenance. You would typically find them preying on insects and small vertebrates.

These agile spiders target various types of prey which may include crickets, grasshoppers, and small fish. A key advantage they have is their excellent hunting skills. They do not rely on their webs to catch food but instead build silk-lined underground burrows.

Specifically, trapdoor spiders use their burrows to ambush unsuspecting prey, thanks to their ability to move quickly. The name “trapdoor spider” comes from the door-like structure they create using their silk, which helps conceal their burrow entrance. As soon as a meal is available, these spiders pounce on the opportunity and capture their prey.

In summary:

  • Trapdoor spiders are carnivores.
  • Their diet includes insects and small vertebrates.
  • Prey examples: crickets, grasshoppers, and small fish.
  • Hunting method: Ambush from silk-lined burrows.

Remember to marvel at these extraordinary creatures and their intriguing feeding habits next time you come across a trapdoor spider. They truly are a wonder of the arthropod world.

Mating and Reproduction

In the world of trapdoor spiders, reproduction is a fascinating process. When it comes to mating, males seek out females by detecting their pheromones. When a male finds a female’s burrow, he taps on the silk doors to signal his intentions1. If the female is receptive, she will allow the male to enter her burrow, where mating takes place.

After a successful mating, the female lays a batch of several hundred eggs2. During this time, the female plays an important role in caring for the young spiderlings. She provides them with food and protection over their first winter, ensuring their survival and growth2. As they reach maturity, the spiderlings leave their mother’s burrow to build their own homes and start their individual lives.

While trapdoor spiders generally have a successful reproductive process, they face certain challenges. For instance, these spiders may fall victim to parasitic wasps or small mammals that dig up the burrows and eat the spiders2. Despite this, trapdoor spiders continue to thrive in various parts of the world, thanks to their unique burrow-dwelling lifestyle and fascinating reproductive behavior.

Defense Mechanisms

Trapdoor spiders have several defense mechanisms to protect themselves from predators and to aid in their hunting. One such mechanism is their camouflage. These spiders live in silk-lined burrows that are covered by a trapdoor. The trapdoor blends seamlessly with their surroundings, making it almost invisible to predators and prey.

When faced with a threat, trapdoor spiders rely on their fangs and legs to defend themselves. Their fangs are sharp and powerful, allowing them to deliver a painful, venomous bite. If you ever come in contact with a trapdoor spider, it’s essential to be cautious, as their bite may cause pain and swelling.

While not all species have this feature, some trapdoor spiders also have hairs on their body. These hairs can act as an additional defense mechanism, as they can be kicked off when the spider is threatened – potentially irritating a predator’s skin, eyes, or respiratory system.

Lastly, trapdoor spiders are not known for building traditional webs for capturing prey. However, some species may use a silk thread to secure their trapdoor, providing an early alert system to any potential prey or predators that might approach their burrow.

To summarize:

  • Trapdoor spiders use camouflage to hide their burrows.
  • They have sharp fangs and powerful legs for defense.
  • Some species have hairs that can irritate predators.
  • They may use silk threads near their burrow for early alerts.

Interactions with Other Species

Trapdoor spiders, belonging to the genus Ummidia, are known to have interactions with a range of other species in their ecosystem. With approximately 50 species of trapdoor spiders across the United States, these interactions may vary depending on the specific species and their habitat.

As predators, they primarily feed on various invertebrates such as insects, scorpions, centipedes, and millipedes. They catch their prey using their strong, sharp fangs. Trapdoor spiders are also known to consume smaller vertebrates like frogs and mice if the opportunity arises.

However, trapdoor spiders are not without their own set of predators. Birds are one of their main natural enemies, as they can easily spot them and snatch them up in their beaks. Baby birds are especially likely to come across trapdoor spiders, as they forage for food near the spider’s burrow.

Invertebrate predators, such as wasps, parasitic wasps, and flies, pose a major threat to trapdoor spiders as well. Some species of wasps are capable of paralyzing the spider with their stings, allowing them to lay their eggs on or inside the spider’s body. As the eggs hatch, the wasp larvae feed on the still-living spider.

Trapdoor spiders need to remain vigilant as mammals, such as raccoons, opossums, and even larger mammals, can also pose a threat by digging up and eating these spiders.

In summary, trapdoor spiders interact with a diverse set of species, both as predators and prey. They face several challenges in their environment, including avoiding or defending against various predators. These interactions play a significant role in shaping the ecosystem and maintaining a balance in the food chain.

Trapdoor Spiders and Humans

When it comes to trapdoor spiders, they are not typically considered to be aggressive towards humans. However, as with many spiders, if they feel threatened, they may defend themselves by biting. A bite from a trapdoor spider can cause local pain but is not considered seriously venomous to humans1.

In some cases, people might find these spiders intriguing and choose to keep them as exotic pets. Trapdoor spiders have adapted to various environments and sometimes live near human habitats. Despite their proximity to humans, these arachnids are mainly focused on their diet, which consists of insects that they capture in their silk-lined underground burrows2.


  • Trapdoor spiders are beneficial in controlling insect populations
  • Their bites are not seriously venomous to humans


  • They might be a source of discomfort for individuals with arachnophobia
  • Some people might find them less appealing as pets due to their hidden lifestyle

In conclusion, trapdoor spiders may not be the first choice for many exotic pet enthusiasts, but they do play an important role in controlling insect populations around human habitats. While they may bite if they feel threatened, their bites are generally not harmful to humans, making them relatively low-risk neighbors.

Interesting Facts

In the world of spiders, trapdoor spiders stand out due to their unique hunting style and fascinating features. As a mygalomorph, these spiders are closely related to tarantulas and are known for their impressive burrow construction.

Their burrows are made of silk, strategically lined with a camouflaged door – hence the name “trapdoor.” These tunnels serve as a habitat, allowing the spider to ambush unsuspecting prey. Did you know that they possess special sensory organs, called spinnerets, on their abdomen? These spinnerets not only help in constructing their famous tunnels but also detect the vibrations caused by the approaching prey.

Let’s dive into more fascinating facts about these remarkable arachnids:

  • Scientific Classification: Trapdoor spiders belong to the family Ctenizidae, with the most speciose genus being Ummidia, consisting of approximately 50 species.
  • Appearance: These spiders have robust bodies, large chelicerae (fangs), and a distinct separation between their cephalothorax and abdomen.

Now, let’s take a closer look at their hunting technique. The trapdoor spider patiently waits in its burrow with the door slightly open. When an unsuspecting victim approaches, it springs into action, grabbing the prey within a lightning-fast movement. Their prey usually consists of various insects and even small vertebrates.

To make things more interesting, there’s a comparison between trapdoor spiders and other common spiders, such as the araneida (orb-weaving spiders):

Feature Trapdoor Spider Araneida (Orb-weaver)
Hunting Technique Ambush-style using a camouflaged burrow door Catches prey using intricately woven webs
Web Construction Silk-lined burrows with a door Spiral, wheel-shaped webs
Prey Types Insects and small vertebrates Insects, usually flying ones

We hope this section has given you insights into the remarkable world of trapdoor spiders and their unique characteristics. Remember to always approach these creatures with curiosity and respect for their contribution to our ecosystem.

Trapdoor Spider Families and Species

There are several families of trapdoor spiders. Some of these include:

  • Ctenizidae
  • Actinopodidae
  • Migidae
  • Antrodiaetidae
  • Barychelidae
  • Cyrtaucheniidae
  • Halonoproctidae
  • Idiopidae
  • Nemesiidae

These spiders are known for their unique hunting style. They live in silk-lined burrows and create a trapdoor-like lid to catch their prey.

For example, the brown trapdoor spider belongs to the Ctenizidae family. They build burrows with well-hidden doors that blend into the environment. Another species, the funnel-web spider, belongs to the Atrax family and is closely related to trapdoor spiders.

To make your understanding of these spiders easier, here’s a comparison table of some species:

Species Family Appearance and Characteristics
Brown Trapdoor Spider Ctenizidae Large, brown, with trapdoor-style burrow
Funnel-web Spider Atrax Dark, glossy, with funnel-shaped webs
Sigillate Trapdoor Spider Idiopidae Flat, shield-shaped abdominal markings
Brown Trapdoor Spiders Various Brown, with characteristics similar to other trapdoor spider species

One key aspect to keep in mind is that male trapdoor spiders are typically more mobile than their female counterparts. They wander in search of mates during breeding seasons.

When trying to identify trapdoor spiders, look for features such as:

  • Large, stocky bodies
  • Short, strong legs
  • Cryptic coloration for camouflage

Remember that these spiders have a unique hunting technique, using their burrows and trapdoor-like lids to catch prey. Stay curious and explore the fascinating world of trapdoor spiders!

Conservation and Ecology

Trapdoor spiders are fascinating creatures with unique behavioral and ecological traits. They are primarily nocturnal hunters, which means they are most active during the night. Since they are timid creatures, they usually avoid any confrontation with larger animals or humans.

The ecology of trapdoor spiders involves living in silk-lined, underground burrows found across the United States, especially in sandy areas where it’s easier for them to dig and maintain their burrows. These silk-lined burrows not only provide the spiders with a safe hiding place but also serve as their hunting ground.

As for their diet, trapdoor spiders predominantly consume insects, which they catch through a unique hunting strategy. They patiently wait at the entrance of their burrow, with only their front legs visible, ready to pounce on any prey that comes close.

  • Some key features of trapdoor spiders include:
    • Nocturnal behavior
    • Timidity
    • Living in silk-lined burrows
    • Unique hunting strategy

Trapdoor spiders play an important role in the ecosystem by controlling insect populations. However, their habitat and survival are threatened due to human activities such as urbanization, deforestation, and climate change.

To protect these fascinating creatures, it’s crucial to raise awareness about their conservation and support ongoing research efforts, such as studies on their systematics and biology. By understanding their ecology and promoting conservation efforts, you can help ensure the survival of trapdoor spiders and the fascinating roles they play in our ecosystems.


  1. Trapdoor Spider | Arthropod Museum – University of Arkansas 2

  2. California trapdoor spider, Bothriocyrtum californicum 2 3 4

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 – Trapdoor Spider


Subject: Id spider please
Location: Table Rock Lake, Branson West, Missouri
July 8, 2015 9:14 am
Found in side yard at Table Rock Lake, Branson West , Missouri.
8 July 2015
Signature: Les Johnson

Trapdoor Spider
Trapdoor Spider

Dear Les,
This is a Trapdoor Spider in the genus
Ummidia, and you can compare your image to this image on BugGuide.  Though Trapdoor Spiders are capable of biting, they are not aggressive and their bite is not considered dangerous.  According to BugGuide:  “Dig tunnel in ground and seal with a silk-hinged lid. They hide under this lid and make forays out when prey is sensed, presumably by vibration. Males are often found wandering in late spring, presumably looking for mates.”

I thought so. He is probably a male as he was just walking along. He tried to run but after i persisted on stopping him for a pic, he just sat there.  About silver dollar sized. Posing for me. Used flash on iphone. Good pic. Thank you very much!

Letter 2 – Trapdoor Spider


Wolf or other?
I found this spider one morning moving though the grass. It’s overall size is about as big as a Gatoraid top and it seems to be highly aggressive. Most of the wolf spider I have seen only want to make a quick getaway but this one lifts it’s front four lets in an almost vertical stance, very similar to that of the funnel web spider in Austraila The longest of it’s two legs in the front, upon close examination, has small hooks almost identical to the stingers found on scorpions (have not seen that before in a wolf spider here in Virginia, most of them are of a brown color variation and have no "claws" that are visible. Here is one of the clearer images I shot.
Any help on this one is greatly appreciated….

Hi Joe,
Your photo looks like a Trapdoor Spider to me. Definitely not a Wolf Spider. I believe Trapdoor Spiders are related to Funnel Web Spiders. Both build a silk line burrow and wait for prey. Your specimen looks like a male who is probably searching for a mate. We recently got a letter from Florida from a reader who has found two dead in his pool.

Letter 3 – Trapdoor Spider


Shiny black spider with a fuzzy brown abdomen
Location: Redmond, WA
September 19, 2011 1:45 am
Dear Bugman,
I was alarmed to discover a spider on the wall right next to me. I’m generally happy to see my arachnid housemates–the long-legged web weavers that hunt ants, move nice and slow, and stay put beneath the sink, but this one was downright scary looking by comparison and moved real fast. (It’s about the size of a nickel.) I took a couple pictures, went to adjust the zoom, then looked back and it was gone.
My usual policy is to squish things that might be dangerous and I can’t avoid when I can, before they hide under something. (Especially since I live in a studio–it disappeared about eight feet away from my bed, and right next to my dresser.) But since this spider has found a momentary reprieve, just how dangerous is it? Is it safe for me to capture and put outside, or even safe enough to leave alone altogether?
I’ll feel a lot better either not squishing something unnecessarily, or knowing that it was honest self defense. Thanks!
Signature: Tim

Trapdoor Spider

Hi Tim,
We wish your photo had better detail, because we believe this is a Trapdoor Spider, and it really resembles the California Trapdoor Spider,
Bothriocyrtum californicum.  While insects and spiders do not have any respect for state or country borders, they do have habitat restrictions that limit their ranges.  We have only ever received reports of California Trapdoor Spiders from California, and all the sightings on BugGuide are also from California.  This is not an aggressive species and they are not considered dangerous, however, BugGuide recently added this bit of trivia to the sorely lacking in information info page:  “According to Guinness World Records, as of 2009, this is the strongest spider. It has been able to resist a force 38 times its own weight when defending its trapdoor. This equates to a man trying to hold a door closed while it is being pulled on the other side by a small jet plane!(1) Unfortunately, the Guinness book doesn’t mention if it’s the strongest North American spider or if it’s the strongest in the world. Also, one thing to think about is whether or not every spider’s strength has been measured. I guess one can safely say that the information is flawed in that aspect, but it still asserts the fact that these spiders ARE very strong.”

Letter 4 – Trapdoor Spider


Subject: running on a trail
Location: Santa Rosa, California
April 1, 2014 7:10 pm
I was running on a trail in Southern California and came across this…… bug spider guy/gal. I stopped and noticed it was actually being attacked by an army of ants. Never seeing a spider this big in California I decided to pick it up with a stick. I managed to get the ants off and relocate the creature to a safer location.
Signature: Jamie

Trapdoor Spider
Trapdoor Spider

Hi Jamie,
This beautiful spider is a Trapdoor Spider, but we are not certain of the genus or species.  It looks very similar to this
Aptostichus stanfordianus that is pictured on BugGuide.

Trapdoor Spider
Trapdoor Spider

Thank you! It was quite beautiful and intriguing.

WE forgot to tag your posting with the Bug Humanitarian Award for rescuing this Trapdoor Spider from the Ants.

Letter 5 – Trapdoor Spider


Subject: unknown arachnid
Location: Parker Texas
August 4, 2014 9:40 pm
I see a lot of bugs, thanks to my occupation I’m relieved to find this website.
Try this one guys.
Found in Parker Texas, in a garage. Mid summer, plenty of tall trees around the area.
Signature: -thank you kindly -Deej

Wafer-Lid Trapdoor Spider
Wafer-Lid Trapdoor Spider

Hi Deej,
This is some species of Trapdoor Spider, and we believe it is a male.  It looks to us like it might be a Wafer-Lid Trapdoor Spider in the genus
Myrmekiaphila based on images posted to BugGuide

Letter 6 – Trapdoor Spider


Subject: Big Spider Bear Lake Idaho
Location: Fish Haven, Idaho
September 13, 2014 9:47 pm
Saw this big spider on our walk today near Bear Lake on the Idaho side. It was sitting (standing?) in the road. It is mid-September, leaves are changing, and has been a wet fall. Is it venomous? Dangerous? Tried to talk my friend into putting her hand down beside it for a size reference but she refused…something about being afraid of spiders. It was bigger than a silver dollar but smaller than the toy poodle walking with us.
Signature: Thanks

Trapdoor Spider
Trapdoor Spider

We believe this is a Trapdoor Spider, but we have not had any luck identifying it on BugGuide.  We hope one of our readers will provide us with something more specific.  Large Trapdoor Spiders might bite if carelessly handled, but they are not considered dangerous to humans.

Letter 7 – Trapdoor Spider


Subject: Unusual Black Spider
Location: Vancouver Island, British Columbia
September 13, 2014 11:43 am
Hello Bugman! I was walking down the street and I saw this guy puttering along the sidewalk out of the corner of my eye. At first I thought it was a large black beetle but upon closer inspection it turned out to be a rather large and unusual spider. I’ve lived on Vancouver Island my whole life and have come across a lot of our native spiders which have all looked pretty similar, but this one looks nothing like anything I’ve ever seen in the wild! He/she was quite meaty looking and fairly large. Any ideas about what spider this is and where he/she could have come from?
Signature: Britt

Folding Door Spider
Folding Door Spider

Dear Britt,
We are confident that your Trapdoor Spider is a native male Folding Door Spider in the genus
Antrodiaetus thanks to this comparable image posted to Bugguide.

Letter 8 – Trapdoor Spider


Subject: Tarantula maybe
Location: San Antonio, TX
September 19, 2014 6:16 am
Can you help me identify this spider I found floating in my pool. When I got it out I was surprised it was alive. It is about 2 inches long and the body is 1/2 inch wide. I did not see it spread out its legs. Is it dangerous?
Signature: Lisa

Trapdoor Spider
Trapdoor Spider

Dear Lisa,
This is a Trapdoor Spider, and though it is theoretically not a Tarantula, it is classified with the Tarantulas in the infraorder Mygalomorphae, and according to BugGuide, the Mygalomorphs are:  “Easily distinguished from araneomorphs by two pairs of booklungs; fangs and chelicerae are parallel to the body axis.”
  BugGuide also notes:  “This is a more primitive group of spiders which includes the infamous tarantulas, primarily represented by members of Family Theraphosidae. Other familiar members include the trapdoor spiders and purseweb spiders.

Letter 9 – Trapdoor Spider


Trapdoor Spider, we believe
Trapdoor Spider, we believe

Subject: Unidentified Kentucky Spider
Location: Louisville, Kentucky.
October 12, 2014 6:25 pm
A friend and I found a spider that we can’t identify, we’ve lived in Louisville all our lives and are outdoorsman and we’ve never seen any spider like it before. It looks a lot bulkier than anything we’ve had around here, almost like a small tarantula but we can’t find anything similar to it anywhere online. We were thinking maybe someone let a bunch of infant tarantula’s loose from a pregnant pet after they hatched and we found one.
Signature: Regards, Stephen.

Hi Stephen,
We wish your image had more detail, because though we believe we have correctly identified your spider as a Trapdoor Spider in the genus
Antrodiaetus, we are not entirely certain.  Your individual looks very much like this individual posted to BugGuide that was found in Pennsylvania.  Along with Tarantulas, Trapdoor Spiders are classified in the Infraorder Mygalomorphae, the most primitive group of spiders.  Another, less likely possibility is a female Southern House Spider, also pictured on BugGuide,  which BugGuide describes as:  “Females are frequently mistaken for small tarantulas or trapdoor spiders. Males are often mistaken for recluse spiders (Loxosceles). This is a totally harmless species that builds “messy” webs emanating from crevices, often on the outside of homes.”

Letter 10 – Trapdoor Spider


Subject: Spider Scorpion!?
Location: Yakima, WA
November 5, 2014 4:54 pm
I found this spider that appears to have a scorpion tail! What is this bug!?
Signature: Michael D.

Trapdoor Spider
Trapdoor Spider

Dear Michael,
This is a Trapdoor Spider, most likely a Folding-Door Spider in the family Antrodiaetidae based on images posted to BugGuide.

Letter 11 – Trapdoor Spider


Subject: Spider identification
Location: Northern California
November 12, 2016 11:30 pm
Found this decently large spider on my porch here in the rural mountains of northern California, Sierra Nevada foothills. The picture is a close up but it’s about half the size of my palm including legs. Any ideas of what kind of spider it is?
Signature: Christina

Trapdoor Spider
Trapdoor Spider

Dear Christina,
This is a Trapdoor Spider.  It resembles this individual from the genus
Calisoga that is pictured on BugGuide.


  • Daniel Marlos

    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.

5 thoughts on “What Do Trapdoor Spiders Eat: A Quick Guide to Their Diet”

  1. I found a spider just like this one in Louisville back in 2009 on the side of my mom’s house. It definitely looks like a trapdoor spider, but I didn’t know they even existed in KY. It is a very interesting spider to say the least. I kept mine for a while before it died. My kids loved watching it jump out of it’s burro to grab food. Great picture.

    • According to BugGuide, several families of Trapdoor Spiders range in Kentucky. Folding Door Spiders have been reported from surrounding states of Ohio, Indiana and Tennessee according to BugGuide, and Cork Lid Spiders have been reported from Kentucky on BugGuide.

  2. what a coincidence, spreading lime on a remote cemetery in a wooded setting and I came upon an unusual site. one of the stones in the cemetery had several red baby spiders climbing up a string of web. the web string ran down from the stone and along the surface of the ground about 14 feet away and ended at a quarter size flap in the ground. I raised the flap to find a shiny black ominous looking spider again about the size of a quarter. its main body was like a hard shell and obvious fangs. I never knew we had trap door spiders in ky. I definitely would not want to expierence a bite from this spider. specimen found in Clinton county ky.


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