41 Types of Caterpillars in California

Types of Caterpillars in California
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California is home to many plants and animals, including many types of caterpillars.

As a gardener, it is important to know the different types of caterpillars in California and how they can affect your garden. 

This blog post will discuss the various types of caterpillars in California, their characteristics, and how they can impact your garden.

We will also discuss how you can identify them and what steps you can take to protect your plants from them.

1. Southwestern Corn Borer Moth Caterpillar

The Southwestern Corn Borer Moth Caterpillar is the first on our list of types of caterpillars in California. This caterpillar species has a white body and black stripes running down its back. 

They can destroy many crops, such as corn, wheat, tomatoes, beans, and vegetables. They feed on plants’ leaves and stems, leaving holes and tattered remains behind.

If left uncontrolled, the caterpillars can cause significant damage to the garden and crops, so it is important to keep an eye out for them.

2. Slug Caterpillar

Slug caterpillars, also known as saddleback caterpillars, are one of the most common types of caterpillars in California.

These pests feed on leaves and fruits, making them a nuisance to gardens and farms. They are black, with two white patches on their back that look like a saddle. 

Slug caterpillars have several long spines on their bodies which can be dangerous if mishandled. If these spines come into contact with human skin, they can cause an itchy rash. It is best to leave them alone and avoid contact if possible.

3. Silver-Spotted Skipper Caterpillar

The Silver-spotted Skipper Caterpillar is one of California‘s many types of caterpillars. It is usually dark brown or black, with pale yellow stripes running down its back and white spots all over its body. 

While they are not as damaging as some other caterpillars, they can still pose a problem in your garden if left unchecked.

They feed on various plants, including garden flowers and vegetables, so it’s important to keep an eye out for them and take the necessary steps to control their population.

4. Rustic Sphinx Moth Caterpillar

The Rustic Sphinx Moth Caterpillar is a type of caterpillar that can be found in California. This species has a distinctive yellow and brown striped body and long snout.

They are most commonly found feeding on vegetables such as cabbage, kale, tomatoes, and other leafy greens.

These types of caterpillars in California can cause damage to gardens due to their voracious appetites and can quickly devour large amounts of foliage.

Gardeners should take note of the presence of Rustic Sphinx Moth Caterpillars and take steps to remove them from the area if needed.

5. Queen Butterfly Caterpillar

Queen butterfly caterpillars, or Danaus gilippus, are a type of caterpillar found in California. These small larvae can have different colors ranging from white to yellow and black. They feed on many plants and flowers, including milkweed, hibiscus, and lantana. 

Queen butterfly caterpillars can be detrimental to gardeners because they can quickly defoliate any plant they feed on. It’s important to take preventative measures to protect your plants from Queen butterfly caterpillars.

Use insecticides with caution, as these chemicals harm the environment and beneficial insects like bees and butterflies.

But, If you prefer natural pest control methods, try planting repellent herbs such as basil, garlic, or chives. These herbs will repel the caterpillars and keep them from devouring your plants.

If you do spot Queen butterfly caterpillars in your garden, handpick them off your plants and discard them away from your garden. This method is an effective way of controlling their population without using chemicals. 

Additionally, you can introduce predators such as birds or lacewings into your garden to reduce the number of caterpillars. Proper management and care can keep your garden safe from Queen butterfly caterpillars.

6. Purslane Caterpillar

The Purslane Caterpillar is one of California’s many species of caterpillars. This type of caterpillar can cause damage to a garden as it feeds on plants and fruits, such as strawberries and lettuce. 

The larvae of the Purslane Caterpillar are greenish-yellow with black spots and can reach up to 20 mm in length. They feed on plant material and can be seen during the day on the leaves or stems of plants.

Taking precautions when dealing with Purslane Caterpillars in your garden is important. If you notice any signs of infestation, it is best to remove the affected plants, destroy them, and use an insecticide to eliminate the larvae.

Additionally, avoiding overcrowding of plants and keeping the garden weed free can help prevent future infestations.

7. Polyphemus Moth Caterpillar

The Polyphemus Moth Caterpillar is one type of caterpillar that can be found in California. This moth species is identified by its yellow-orange body with long, thin black tufts of hair along the sides and back. 

They can reach up to 2 inches in length when fully grown. While they may look intimidating, they are actually harmless and not considered a threat to humans or animals.

The Polyphemus Moth Caterpillar feeds on various plants, including tree foliage and garden vegetables. If too many types of caterpillars in California feed on a single plant, it can cause them to die. 

It’s important to keep an eye out for these types of caterpillars in California in your garden and take steps to remove them if necessary.

The best way to do this is by hand-picking them off the plants and disposing them in a sealed bag away from other plants.

8. Pipevine Swallowtail Butterfly Caterpillar

The Pipevine Swallowtail Butterfly Caterpillar is a common caterpillar found in California. This caterpillar species is most easily identified by its distinctive black and blue stripes running down the length of its body. 

It feeds on the leaves of plants in the pipevine family, such as Dutchman’s pipe and California pipevine, which are also native to California.

While they are not considered pests, they can cause significant damage to gardens if their populations become too large. For this reason, gardeners should be aware of their presence and take preventive measures if necessary.

9. Owlet Moth Caterpillar

The Owlet Moth Caterpillar is a caterpillar commonly found in California gardens. These types of caterpillars in California are typically small and black, with a single white line running down their back. 

Owlet Moth Caterpillars have a distinct fuzzy appearance, which helps to protect them from predators. These caterpillars in California feed on a wide range of plants so that they can be found in many different types of gardens.

Though Owlet Moth Caterpillars can be beneficial for keeping other pest populations under control, they can also cause damage to plants if there are too many in an area. 

Large populations of these types of caterpillars in California can strip leaves from trees and shrubs, leaving the plants vulnerable to other pests and diseases.

To reduce the risk of damage, gardeners should monitor their plants regularly and take steps to prevent large numbers of caterpillars from congregating in one place.

10. Orange Dog Caterpillar

The orange dog caterpillar is a type of caterpillar commonly found in California. It is easily identifiable by its bright orange color and black stripes, which stand out against its light green body. This caterpillar can reach up to 2 inches in length and can be found throughout the state.

The orange dog caterpillar is considered a pest due to its feeding habits. It eats various plants and can cause significant damage to gardens and crops if left unchecked. 

In addition, the orange dog caterpillar’s presence can attract other pests, such as wasps and flies, which can further damage your garden.

Therefore, it is important to take steps to control this type of caterpillar if it is found in your garden.

11. Monarch Butterfly Caterpillar

The Monarch butterfly caterpillar is one of California’s most common types of caterpillars. This species is characterized by its striking yellow, white, and black stripes extending the body’s length. 

Monarch caterpillars feed on milkweed plants, which are abundant in California’s warm climate. As they grow, Monarch caterpillars molt five times and can reach up to two inches long. They then form a chrysalis before emerging as butterflies. 

The presence of Monarch caterpillars in gardens can be beneficial because they can reduce the number of weeds while providing an important food source for local birds.

Gardeners should also be aware that Monarch types of caterpillars in California can damage vegetables and flowers if their populations become too large. Keeping their numbers in check is essential for a healthy and thriving garden.

12. Mealybug Destroyer Beetle Larva

The Mealybug Destroyer Beetle Larva is one of the many types of caterpillars in California. Mealybug Destroyer Beetle Larvae can be identified by their yellow-brown bodies and small heads. 

These types of caterpillars in California are known to feed on mealybugs, which are a type of insect that can cause severe damage to crops.

This makes them beneficial in your garden, as they can help control mealybug populations and protect your plants from damage. 

However, they can become a nuisance if left unchecked, as they may consume beneficial insects like bees and butterflies.

Therefore, it’s important to monitor their numbers and take steps to limit their activity in your garden if necessary.

13. Luna Moth Caterpillar

Another on the list of types of caterpillars in California is the Luna Moth Caterpillar. These types of caterpillars in California can be identified by their yellow stripes and distinctive blue and white head. 

Luna moth caterpillars are considered to be an invasive species due to their large appetite, often feeding on a variety of plant leaves and even other insects.

They can quickly strip a plant of its leaves, causing it to become weak and vulnerable to disease or other pests.

Gardeners should take care when tending their plants to ensure that the luna moth caterpillar does not have access to them. As with all pests, early detection and treatment are key for controlling them.

14. Leopard Slug

The Leopard Slug is also one of the types of caterpillars in California. It is recognizable by its striking yellow and black stripes and unique shell-like shape. 

The Leopard Slug can be found in gardens, trees, and other areas with vegetation. While it benefits the environment, its presence can sometimes become a nuisance in gardens. 

As an herbivore, the Leopard Slug feeds on plants and vegetables, which can be damaging to garden crops.

If you spot Leopard Slugs in your garden, it is best to act quickly to protect your plants from potential damage.

15. Humped Green Fruitworm

The Humped Green Fruitworm is one of California’s many types of caterpillars. This type of caterpillar is generally found in deciduous trees and shrubs, but it can also be found in various other places, such as yards and gardens. 

It is olive green, with a yellow stripe running along its back. Its legs have short spikes, and its head has a small hump at the front.

Unfortunately, the Humped Green Fruitworm can cause damage to plants, particularly fruit trees.

They feed on the leaves and can damage the tree’s foliage, reducing the amount of fruit produced by the tree.

Regular inspections should be done to protect your garden or yard from these pests to identify any caterpillars present, and immediate action should be taken to eliminate them.

16. Hubbard’s Small Silkmoth Caterpillar

The Hubbard’s small silkmoth caterpillar is a type of caterpillar commonly found in California. It is light green with yellow stripes running along the sides of its body. The caterpillar can reach lengths up to 2 inches and feeds on oak, walnut, and citrus trees.

When the caterpillar is fully grown, it will form a cocoon which will transform into an adult silkmoth. These types of caterpillars in California are considered garden pests as they can cause damage to trees and plants by defoliating them.

While the Hubbard’s small silkmoth caterpillar may seem harmless, it can be a nuisance for homeowners and gardeners.

To reduce the number of these caterpillars in your garden, use an insecticide targeting caterpillars. Additionally, keeping garden beds weeded and removing any dead foliage or branches can help prevent an infestation.

17. Hooded Owlet Moth Caterpillar

The Hooded Owlet Moth Caterpillar is a type of caterpillar found in California. It is black and white with a bright orange head and can reach up to 2 inches in length. 

These types of caterpillars in California feed on deciduous trees and shrubs and can become an issue in gardens and yards if left unchecked.

The damage they cause is usually minimal, but they can quickly become a nuisance if their numbers grow. It is important to be aware of this caterpillar and take steps to control it if it becomes a problem.

18. Hitched Arches Moth Caterpillar

The Hitched Arches Moth Caterpillar is a type of caterpillar found in California. Its distinctive appearance identifies it: a wide, white stripe running across its back with several blacks and yellow stripes underneath. 

The head has a distinctive red-orange spot on the top, while the rest of the body is mostly green or yellow-green. The Hitched Arches Moth Caterpillar feeds on many plants, including citrus trees, oaks, and certain flowers. 

Unfortunately, this type of caterpillar can be destructive to gardens, as it can strip plants of their leaves and flowers.

As such, it is important to monitor your garden regularly and remove any caterpillars you find quickly before they can cause more damage.

With proper care and maintenance, however, it is possible to enjoy a healthy garden despite the presence of the Hitched Arches Moth Caterpillar.

19. Hickory Tussock Moth Caterpillar

The Hickory Tussock Moth Caterpillar is one of California‘s many types of caterpillars. These larvae are typically found on oak and hickory trees but can also feed on walnuts and other hardwoods. They are black and have white or yellow stripes running along their backs.

The caterpillar also has hair-like tufts of fur near its head and tail, giving it the name tussock. The Hickory Tussock Moth Caterpillar can harm gardens by feeding on many plants, including tomatoes, roses, beans, and squash.

If your garden is infested with these caterpillars, it is important to take steps to remove them as soon as possible before they cause significant damage.

Covering your plants with protective netting is also a good idea to prevent the caterpillars from reaching them.

20. Hahncappsia Moth Caterpillar

Hahncappsia Moth Caterpillars are a type of caterpillar found in California and can be detrimental to gardens.

These types of caterpillars in California feed on various plants, including cabbage, Brussels sprouts, and broccoli. 

They also eat grasses, herbs, and weeds. They are white or yellowish-green in color and can grow up to 2.5 centimeters long. If left untreated, they can defoliate entire plants and cause major damage to your garden.

If you suspect Hahncappsia Moth Caterpillars have invaded your garden, take steps to remove them as soon as possible.

21. Forest Tent Caterpillar

The forest tent caterpillar is a type of caterpillar that can be found in California. These types of caterpillars in California form large, dense colonies and can strip trees of their leaves.

The caterpillars feed on the leaves of deciduous trees, including oak and maple. They can also feed on fruit trees such as apples, pears, cherries, and plums.

While these types of caterpillars in California usually don’t cause significant damage to trees, their large numbers can be a nuisance. 

It is important to monitor the activity of these caterpillars and take steps to prevent them from becoming too numerous. If necessary, homeowners can use an insecticide to eliminate them from their gardens.

22. False Unicorn Caterpillar

Next, the type of caterpillar commonly found in California is the False Unicorn Caterpillar. These types of caterpillars in California can be identified by their green and yellow stripes and their distinctive bright yellow horn. 

The False Unicorn Caterpillar is found primarily in the western parts of the state and feeds on plants such as roses, blackberries, and primrose.

Unfortunately, this caterpillar can be a destructive pest to gardens, as it can feed on leaves, flowers, and stems of many types of plants. 

It is important to be aware of this caterpillar if you are growing garden plants in California and take steps to reduce its presence.

Handpicking the caterpillars off the plants and disposing of them is one way to minimize the damage they can cause.

23. Elm Sawfly

The elm sawfly (Cimbex Americana) is a caterpillar in California. These types of caterpillars in California can have a destructive effect on gardens and trees, as they feed on the leaves of the plants. 

They typically form dense clusters and can strip plants of their foliage quickly. It’s important to identify these caterpillars early and take action to protect your plants before they cause extensive damage.

24. Cross-Striped CabbageWorm

The Cross-striped CabbageWorm is a type of caterpillar found in California. This green and black striped pest can damage garden plants, feeding on the leaves of cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, cabbage, and kale.

The larvae are particularly fond of broccoli and may strip the plant of its leaves if left unchecked. Gardeners should be aware of the potential for these pests in their gardens and take steps to prevent or reduce their damage.

25. Crambid Moth Caterpillar

The Crambid Moth Caterpillar is a common species of caterpillar in California. These types of caterpillars in California can eat away the foliage of various plants and trees throughout the region.

Crambid Moth Caterpillars feed primarily on the leaves of garden plants such as broccoli, cabbage, and kale and fruit trees like cherry, peach, and plum trees.

They can also cause damage to flowers and ornamental shrubs. Gardeners should take extra caution when dealing with Crambid Moth Caterpillars since they can cause extensive damage to their plants.

The best way to control this type of caterpillar is by using a biological insecticide or an organic pesticide.

Additionally, handpicking and removing the caterpillars from your garden is recommended. It is important to note that if you are looking to attract beneficial insects to your garden, you may want to consider leaving some of these types of caterpillars in California in your garden.

26. Common Buckeye Butterfly Caterpillar

Also on the list of types of caterpillars in California is the Common Buckeye Butterfly Caterpillar. This colorful caterpillar can be seen in gardens and woodlands throughout the state. It is easily identified by its bright orange-brown body, black head, and white dots along its back.

The Common Buckeye Caterpillar feeds on various host plants, including milkweed, thistle, morning glory, and grapevine leaves.

The Common Buckeye Butterfly Caterpillar is known to cause damage to gardens, especially when left unchecked.

These types of caterpillars in California are voracious eaters and can quickly decimate a garden’s foliage if left unchecked.

Gardeners should monitor their plants closely and handpick any caterpillars they find. If necessary, they can also use insecticides to help control their populations.

27. Cimbicid Sawfly

The Cimbicid Sawfly, a type of caterpillar found in California, is the larva of a moth-like insect. These types of caterpillars in California are usually between 1/2 and 1 inch in length and have distinct black and yellow stripes along their bodies. They feed on plants, including willows, roses, birches, lilies, and shrubs.

Gardening enthusiasts should be aware of this caterpillar since it can cause considerable damage to plants in gardens.

It is important to regularly check for signs of infestation, such as defoliated leaves or stems with chew marks, and take appropriate measures to prevent or stop the infestation.

Keeping plants healthy and free from pests is the best way to ensure your garden thrives.

28. Camouflaged Emerald Moth Caterpillar

The camouflaged emerald moth caterpillar is a type of caterpillar found in California. It is a bright green color with a row of yellow spots down its back and white marks on its sides. 

These types of caterpillars in California feed on leaves, fruits, and flowers, making them a potential pest in gardens. They are usually found during summer and can be identified by their bright green color. 

The camouflaged emerald moth caterpillar can cause significant damage to gardens if not controlled properly.

When they feed on leaves, they can leave behind holes and ragged edges. They can also cause damage to fruits and flowers. If left unchecked, they can completely defoliate plants. 

Fortunately, some steps can be taken to prevent damage from the camouflaged emerald moth caterpillar. Hand-picking them from plants is one method. 

It is also important to regularly inspect plants for signs of caterpillar activity and promptly remove any caterpillars that are spotted.

Keeping gardens well-maintained and trimmed back can also reduce the number of these types of caterpillars in California present.

29. Cabbage Looper

The cabbage looper is one of the common types of caterpillars in California. This species can be identified by its distinct white stripes along the length of its body and its characteristic looping motion.

The cabbage looper mainly feeds on cruciferous vegetables like cabbage and cauliflower, which can make them a major pest for gardeners in California.

The cabbage looper’s larvae can cause considerable damage to gardens, as they often feed on large amounts of foliage.

They can also spread disease and viruses to other plants. If left unchecked, a cabbage looper infestation can cause significant damage to your vegetable crops.

Fortunately, there are ways to help prevent an infestation of cabbage loopers in your garden. Crop rotation and disposal of infested plant material are important steps in managing these caterpillars in California.

Additionally, setting up row covers or spraying insecticides can help deter the caterpillars from damaging your crops.

30. Blinded Sphinx Moth Caterpillar

The Blinded Sphinx Moth Caterpillar is a type of caterpillar found in California. This species is easily identified due to its vibrant color and distinct shape. 

The caterpillar’s body is black and orange with a yellow stripe down the back. It has two large, black eyes that give it its name.

It’s important to know about the Blinded Sphinx Moth Caterpillar because it can cause considerable damage to gardens and plants in the area. 

The caterpillar feeds on foliage, leaving behind chewed-up leaves and stems. If left unchecked, this species of caterpillar can completely strip a garden of its greenery.

To prevent this from happening, gardeners should keep an eye out for these caterpillars and take steps to eliminate them if spotted.

31. Black-headed Pine Sawfly Larva

Black-headed Pine Sawfly Larva is one of California’s many types of caterpillars. These small larvae are usually black or dark brown and can reach up to 0.7 inches in length. Their distinct feature is their black head, which makes them easily recognizable. 

These types of caterpillars in California are known for their ability to wreak havoc on pine trees, so if you have a pine tree in your garden, it’s important to watch out for these critters. If left unchecked, they can defoliate a tree in no time.

To prevent infestations, gardeners should be sure to check their trees and remove any larvae they find regularly.

32. Black Carpet Beetle Larva

The black carpet beetle larva is a caterpillar commonly found in California. These larvae feed on items such as fabric, carpets, and stored food. They can also be found living in bird nests and pet fur. 

To identify them, look for a long, dark larva with three pairs of legs on the first segment of its body. They can grow up to 8mm in length.

If these larvae become a problem in your garden, it’s important to take the necessary steps to remove them.

Use insecticidal dust or spray to get rid of them, and vacuum regularly to prevent further infestations. You can also introduce natural predators like ladybugs or birds to help keep the population under control.

Taking these preventative measures can help protect your plants from potential damage.

33. American Lady Caterpillar

The American Lady caterpillar is a common type of caterpillar found in California. It is light to dark brown and features distinctive white and yellow stripes. The larvae feed on the leaves of various plants, including daisies, thistles, and false dandelions. 

As the caterpillars grow, they become increasingly voracious eaters, capable of defoliating entire plants in a short amount of time.

As such, gardeners should be aware of these types of caterpillars in California when tending their gardens.

34. Afflicted Dagger Moth Caterpillar

The Afflicted Dagger Moth Caterpillar is a common caterpillar found in California gardens and forests. Its pale yellow body is lined with brown and black markings and long, black hairs. 

This caterpillar feeds primarily on oaks and can defoliate entire trees if left unchecked. If you see any of these caterpillars in your garden or near your home, it’s best to contact a professional pest control service to prevent the spread of this pest.

35. Fall Webworm

The fall webworm is one type of caterpillar found in California. These large, white and yellow caterpillars are covered with tiny hairs and can often be seen hanging from webs on trees or shrubs. 

While these types of caterpillars in California do not usually cause serious damage to trees and plants, they can defoliate them if their population becomes too large. In some cases, the webs may also cause stress on the host plant. 

It’s important to keep an eye out for fall webworms in the summer and fall months. If their population is noticed to be increasing, it’s best to take steps to control them before any serious damage is done to the garden.

This can be done by removing webs and caterpillars from affected trees and plants or using an insecticide.

36. Common Sawfly Larva

One type of caterpillar commonly found in California is the sawfly larva, which can cause damage to garden vegetation.

These small, segmented larvae often feed on the leaves of various plants, including roses, raspberries, and firs. 

Sawfly larvae are often mistaken for other types of caterpillars in California due to their similar appearance. Still, they can be identified by their orange or yellow coloring and tufts of black hair.

These pests should be handled quickly and safely to protect your garden from further damage.

37. American Lappet Moth Caterpillar

The American Lappet Moth Caterpillar is a type of caterpillar that can be found in California. This species of moth is native to North America and is characterized by its mottled black, white, and orange stripes. 

The American Lappet Moth Caterpillar can be found in various habitats, including meadows, fields, roadsides, and gardens.

These types of caterpillars in California are known for their voracious appetite. It feeds on various plants, such as leaves, flowers, and fruits. 

This can make it an unwelcome sight in many gardens and landscapes. It is important to be aware of this caterpillar’s presence and take steps to prevent it from damaging your plants.

If you do find these types of caterpillars in California in your garden, one option is to remove them manually. You can also spray them with insecticides or use traps to reduce their population. 

In addition, it is important to keep the area around your garden well-maintained to reduce the chances of infestation.

Properly trimming plants and removing dead material can help keep the caterpillar population under control.

It is important to be aware of the presence of American Lappet Moth Caterpillars and take steps to protect your plants from damage.

Preventative measures can help protect your garden and ensure your plants remain healthy and beautiful.

38. Anise Swallowtail Butterfly Caterpillar

The Anise Swallowtail Butterfly Caterpillar is a type of caterpillar found in California. This type of caterpillar feeds on the foliage of plants in the carrot family, such as dill, fennel, parsley, and Queen Anne’s lace.

They can cause significant damage to garden plants if left unchecked, so it is important to keep an eye out for these pests and take steps to control their population.

39. Army Cutworm

Army cutworms are next on the list of types of caterpillars in California. Army cutworms are a type of caterpillar native to California.

These types of caterpillars in California feed on the foliage of many plants, including garden vegetables and flowers. 

Army cutworms can damage plants by eating away the leaves, stems, and roots. If left unchecked, army cutworm infestations can cause widespread destruction in gardens.

Homeowners should take steps to identify and control these pests before they cause extensive damage.

40. Banded Woollybear Caterpillar

The Banded Woollybear Caterpillar is one of the most common caterpillars in California. It is a medium-sized caterpillar with a black and brown striped pattern on its body. 

It is particularly destructive to vegetable crops, such as cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, and kale. This type of caterpillar can be found in gardens and fields throughout the state and should be controlled immediately if it is spotted.

Handpicking, or using insecticidal sprays, are both effective methods for controlling Banded Woollybear Caterpillars.

41. Bent-line Gray Moth Caterpillar

Lastly, on the list, The Bent-line Gray Moth Caterpillar is a type of caterpillar found in California. It has an elongated body with a light gray background and black and white stripes along the sides. 

These types of caterpillars in California feed on a variety of trees and shrubs, so they can be damaging to your garden if left unchecked.

If you have this species in your yard, it is important to take steps to prevent or reduce its presence.

Conclusion

Caterpillars are an important part of California’s diverse ecosystem, playing a critical role in many of the state’s habitats.

There are dozens of caterpillars in California homes, and they can significantly impact your garden or outdoor space. 

We’ll have taken a closer look at some of the types of caterpillars in California and how they can affect your garden. We have also discussed what you can do to protect your plants from the damage they can cause.  

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