Letter I The A to Z of TV Gardening


Letter I

A look at some of the BBC's most popular gardening programmes and personalities, presented by Carol Kirkwood. This edition takes a look at insects.


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Transcript


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Hello and welcome to The A To Z Of TV Gardening.

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Everything we're looking at today begins with the letter I.

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We start with an in-depth look at the creatures who,

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especially during the warmer months, arrive in our gardens

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in their millions and play a role in them

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that's as crucial as our own.

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Yes, I is for insects.

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And, to get things started, let's join Chris Packham

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and bask in the beauty of the Great British butterfly.

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You know, we have over 50 species of butterflies in the UK

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and they've been living alongside us for thousands of years

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in our woodlands, field margins, parks and gardens.

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But butterflies are not just pretty faces. Oh, no.

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Their private lives can be both complex and fascinating.

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Take the Large Blue, for example.

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The caterpillars hatch out

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and feed on wild thyme, but then

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they trick a species of ant into taking them

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into their nest underground

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and here they eat the ants' own grubs

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before emerging again the following year.

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You've got to agree, butterflies are pretty amazing.

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Sadly, in recent years,

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Britain's butterflies have been in serious trouble.

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And the statistics are fairly sobering.

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Well, it's really bad news for British butterflies.

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Over the past three decades or so,

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three quarters of our

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butterfly species have declined,

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so that's a massive loss

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for many different species.

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Five species have become extinct in Britain completely

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and many others are threatened with extinction.

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To understand why our butterflies are suffering,

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we have to uncover their complex and fascinating lives.

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To do that, we have to start at the beginning.

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Female butterflies are notoriously

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picky about exactly where

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they lay their eggs.

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Some butterflies only breed on a single species of plant.

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White admiral, for example, only breeds on honeysuckle.

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But most of them actually breed

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on plants from a single family.

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Purple emperor breeds on sallows,

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which are a type of willow.

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-RICHARD:

-They're very choosy, these butterflies,

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and that makes them very sensitive. As soon as that plant has gone,

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then they go extinct in that place straightaway.

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They live very fast lives,

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so they respond very quickly to these changes.

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CHRIS: And the reason they are so fussy? Well, it's because of these.

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The key to a butterfly's success is getting the right

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food plants for their hungry caterpillars and, unfortunately,

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these plants have been disappearing from our countryside.

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-RICHARD:

-The big problem that our British butterflies have faced is

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the loss of traditional ways that we manage our farmland and forests.

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They're now increasingly restricted to small pockets of habitat,

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small islands in a sea of otherwise inhospitable terrain -

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might be intensive farmland or housing, roads and so on.

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And they really need to be able to move through the landscape.

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CHRIS: But with that landscape changing so fast and such specific

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and different needs, it's no wonder that

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they've found it difficult to cope.

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But there is a simple solution to their complex problem.

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Understand the species and then make space for its needs.

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We're lucky. We know a lot about butterflies in Britain,

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probably more than any other country in the world.

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They respond so quickly to change

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and we can reverse some of these declines.

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The perfect example is the Heath Fritillary.

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Its food plant, Common Cow-wheat,

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grows in sunny, woodland glades.

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Now, when traditional forestry methods stopped,

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the clearings covered over and the butterflies came close to extinction.

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But by simply changing back to the original practices,

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in woodland in Kent the Heath Fritillary

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is now thriving once again.

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It's not all bad news for butterflies, by any means.

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The truth is that they live in a bit of a different dynamic,

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almost a different dimension to us

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and their populations yo-yo up and down,

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depending on weather cycles

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and what's happening with their habitats

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and they can boom or bust.

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We want to see far more boom.

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# Boum

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# L'astre du jour fait boum

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# Tout avec lui dit boum

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# Quand notre coeur fait boum-boum... #

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Now, let's join Joe Swift,

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who's been having pest-related problems on his vegetable plots.

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It's a relaxed summer's day at the allotment.

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A bit of harvesting, bit of weeding, bit of watering,

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maybe putting a few bits and pieces in and taking some out.

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But, the exciting thing is, I've got

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an entomologist coming up here today.

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What's one of those?

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An entomologist, Mark, is Bugman.

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Bugman. You've heard of Batman, you've heard of Spider-man,

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we've got Bugman coming up, because there's a few bits and pieces

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eating some of my crops, so I thought I'd get him up and have a look.

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Right, I just want to show you my peas,

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cos I'm not sure what this is at all.

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There's a couple that have died out and I was wondering

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whether it was early stem damage, the stem got damaged or something.

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But now they're going a little bit yellow around this patch.

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I suspect it's actually a virus.

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Looking at some of these plants, you can still see

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-the mosaic symptoms on the leaves.

-Oh, yeah, OK.

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This will be a virus that's transmitted by aphids, greenfly.

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I did have some blackfly and some greenfly here and I've used this.

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It seemed to have got rid of it,

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but maybe the virus had already been spread.

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This is just an organic soapy solution.

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OK, fatty acids.

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Yeah, and it did the job.

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Yeah. Looking at these plants, I can't see any aphids on there,

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so it looks like you have done a really good job of it.

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-But you will need to keep on top of those aphids.

-OK.

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What about next year?

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Well, these seed are likely to contain the virus as well,

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so don't use the seed for planting next year's plants.

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Just keep a very good eye on the plants early on

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and try to keep on top of the aphids.

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Cos it's possible that there's a reservoir of the virus

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-somewhere else on this allotment.

-OK, right.

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It would be a real shame to get rid of them.

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-cos I'm getting loads of peas off them at the moment!

-Absolutely.

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Who's this fellow? He looks like he's after your sandwiches, rather than my brassicas.

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This is a larvae of a moth of some sort.

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It could be a tiger moth of some sort.

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But it's certainly not a problem to your allotment.

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OK, I'm glad, cos he's so beautiful,

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I wouldn't want to damage him or her.

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This will be feeding on some of the weeds around, maybe bramble.

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How do you know which are the goodies and which are the baddies?

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Yeah, that's tricky, but I think it's just experience, really.

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If you watch your plants, you'll recognise the caterpillars

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that are eating your vegetables and the ones that aren't.

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Is it a problem? If something is eating your caterpillars, is it bad?

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I've just squashed one between my thumb and forefinger.

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Is that a bad thing to do, or is that perfectly legitimate in the world of the allotment?

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I think if you're 100% certain that that species is eating your plants,

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then it's a safe and effective way of getting rid of them.

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But certainly don't go around killing every caterpillar you see,

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because things like this aren't a problem.

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Right, on my sage.

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I've had a bit of problem at home with mildew and stuff,

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but this doesn't look like mildew at all.

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That's the feeding damage of the sage leafhopper.

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-Do you see them on here?

-Feeding damage? Oh, right. OK.

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-Do they hop?

-Yeah.

-Oh, they do hop?

-Yeah.

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They hop nicely, actually.

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Is there anything else I should be worried about?

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It looks perfectly edible, this sage.

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No. All that is, really, is a little bit of leaf damage.

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They feed on plant sap,

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so what they're doing is tapping into the cells,

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sucking out the contents, and you end up with

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these little necrotic areas,

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which is basically empty cells.

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OK. It's not affecting the taste?

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-They're not nicking all the tasty bits of my sage?

-No.

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What have you got there?!

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I've brought my pooter along

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which is what an entomologist uses to catch insects.

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Oh, this is exciting!

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You basically suck down the tube and

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-the insects end up in the pot.

-OK.

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Oh, it's completely silent...

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-There they are.

-And there they are,

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in your little jar. Hopping around.

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If you look at these under a microscope, they're really pretty.

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-They are very beautiful, aren't they?

-Yeah.

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-They won't cause you too much damage.

-OK, fine.

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So I'm going to leave those little fellas there.

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We'll release these later.

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Carol Kirkwood takes an alphabetical journey through the world of gardening, getting inspiration and advice from some of the BBC's most popular garden presenters and programmes. This episode features insects, basking in the beauty of butterflies while commiserating with Joe Swift over the insects that are eating their way through his allotment.


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