Do bug killers work? Yes, almost as good as any other random wildlife kill. (2023)

Bug zappers kill bugs by the thousands. But there's a problem: they're killing the wrong bugs. They are ineffective against mosquitoes and other stable flies, and killing them indiscriminately can disrupt pollination and unbalance the environment in general. In addition, the power of its electrocution can launch a mist of diseased insect parts into the air. Every mosquito expert we spoke to and every relevant university office we unanimously condemned found bug killers. To keep an area free of insects or to avoid bites,there are much better alternatives.

Why you should trust us

To learn more about Bug Zapper, we spoke toLaurence Onion, PhD, Professor of Biological Sciences and Pharmacology at Vanderbilt University. Onion has studied insect behavior for nearly 40 years and has focused on mosquitoes for the past 25 years, specifically studying how the sense of smell drives mosquito behavior.

We also corresponded withLeslie Voshall, PhD, Professor of Neurobiology at Rockefeller University. Vosshall has been studying insects for 30 years and has focused on mosquitoes and their repellent effects for the last 15 years.

ProfessorJonathan Tagfrom the University of Florida also shared his experiences with us. He has a PhD in Medical Entomology and has been studying mosquitoes and other insects for almost 40 years. He specializes in mosquito control.

We spoke to Brian Provost, International Sales Representative and Customer Service ManagerFlowtron, a leading manufacturer of bug killers, to hear their opinions on the benefits of the devices and to address common criticisms.

In addition, we read everything we could find about exterminators, delved into academic studies, and looked at a variety of university publications, many from advisory agencies.

Personally, I've written quite a bit about insect control, including how-to's forinsect repellent,Mosquito control equipment,fly swatter, jant killerand an analysis of why you should stay away from itInsect repellent with essential oils. In writing and researching these articles, I spoke to a variety of academics, product manufacturers, the Environmental Protection Agency, and Joe Conlon, Technical Advisor todie American Association for Mosquito Control. I also have honey bees, which brings me a little more in tune with pollination and the world of insects.

Bug zappers kill the wrong bugs

Do bug killers work? Yes, almost as good as any other random wildlife kill. (1)

Bug killers work by emitting an ultraviolet light that attracts insects to the center of the device where they are electrocuted, usually between two metal screens. Due to the irresistible attraction of their light, insect killers are incredibly effective at killing insects. The only problem: they don't kill the bugs that bother you.

"Bugkillers are good at attracting insects that are attracted to bugkillers," Leslie Vosshall, a professor of neurobiology at Rockefeller University, told us. Mosquitoes or other biting insects are often not included. A study ofUniversity of Delawaretracked six insect killers in residential areas over a 10-week period and found that of the 13,789 dead insects, only 31 were biting flies (including mosquitoes). That's a dismal 0.22 percent. Given this, it's not surprising that the study's authors concluded that zappers "do nothing to reduce biting flies." In a similar sensedie American Association for Mosquito Controlnotes that Notre Dame researchers conducted two studies on insect killers (neither of which are online) and found that "mosquitoes accounted for only 4.1% and 6.4%, respectively, of the daily catch over an entire season." As theColorado State University Extensionsays, "No controlled scientific studies have shown that these devices reduce outdoor mosquito bite rates."

Pretty bad, right? Well, it gets worse once you start understanding the mistakes you're makingIs it like thisAccording to the Delaware study, the insects eliminated include "many thousands of non-target insects representing rich taxonomic diversity." So extreme is this unfocused killing of insects that, according to the University of Delaware study authors, "Even when targeted stable flies were effectively controlled by electric zappers, the resultant destruction of thousands of parasitoids, predators, aquatic insects, and other members of the nocturnal fauna was severe." Jonathan Day, a professor at the University of Florida, told us: "We are in a crisis with the collapse of the honey bee colony that is so big that I think anything that involves a population of beneficial insects is related to it affected is problematic.

The ripple effect of this comprehensive bug fix has not yet been fully explored. But given the possibility that insect killers create gaps in the food chain, the authors of the University of Delaware study express concern about bats and nightjars, both of which survive by eating insects at night.

Do bug killers work? Yes, almost as good as any other random wildlife kill. (2)

Fortunately, honey bees are not attracted to light, nor do they roam at night when insect killers are most effective. But not all pollinators are spared. The moths, which happily dive headlong into anything that resembles bright light, "take the night shift pollinating," the report says.US-Forstdienst. In fact, ajoint study 2018from the Universities of York, Newcastle and Hull found that "moths may play a much larger role as plant pollinators than previously thought". By tracing the DNA of pollen, the study authors found that the moths pollinate a wide range of plants, including food crops like peas and soybeans. In addition, the study showed that moths can transport pollen over greater distances than honeybees, which "could help prevent inbreeding between plants." Conclusion: We should probably stop killing moths on a large scale.

Another victim, Day says, is the parasitic wasp, which "takes the lion's share of the brunt when it comes to insect killers." These are very small insects that are harmless to humans and use other insects as hosts, often laying eggs for them and killing them in the process. According to theVirginia Cooperative Expansion (PDF), "They are very important in agriculture as they attack a variety of insect pests that feed on important crops." Ticks, beetles, flies, caterpillars and aphids are among the insects used as hosts and eventually killed by wasps . Actually theExtension of the University of Marylandsuggests that parasitic wasps may be "the most important biological control method for gardeners". Not exactly the kind of bug we want to electrocute.

Day has long been against the bug killers. In fact, the first thing he told us in an interview was, "It amazes me that bug killers still exist, or even are still an issue." in oneInterview 1997He explained: "They are a total waste of money. Insect killers do not control mosquitoes or other biting insects such as horseflies, dog flies or horseflies all in oneInterview 2008Day said the zappers had the added disadvantage of attracting mosquitoes to their general environment. "As they get closer," Day said, "the people sitting in the yard become a lot more attractive." In other words, as the article says, mosquitoes "will come for the light, but they'll stay for the blood." “. The Delaware and Notre Dame studies date from the 1980s and mid-1990s. We asked Day why there weren't any more recent studies on them. "Most medical entomologists believe the question has been answered," he told us.

The negative sentiment towards insect killers is by no means limited to these few studies and experts. In fact, it seems almost unanimous. We find similar statements from theHarvard Medical School("Don't buy a bug killer"),State University of Iowa("Bug zappers are harmful, not helpful"), theTexas Tech University Child Risk Center(“Do not use insect killers”) and theUS Department of Agriculture (PDF)(“The likelihood of being bitten by mosquitoes increases near these traps”). They all point out that bug zappers should be avoided at all costs. And these are just a few examples of what we found.

Vaporized insect guts, anyone?

This is where things get weird... and a little gross. Another strike against bug killers is that they shock them with such force that parts like hair, legs, or wings can fly off the body and be completely vaporized. If these aerosolized insect bits carry any disease, well, that has now been vaporized into the air. Precious, isn't it?

This information is based on a year 2000to study,conducted by researchers at Kansas State University and published in Current Microbiology, who tracked the "spread of bacteria and a bacterial virus during electrocution of house flies." The conclusion was that insect killers "may play a role in the spread of infectious disease pathogens."discuss the study, said one of the authors: "We were surprised to see as much proliferation of microorganisms as was the case." He continued, "We think some bacteria might spread, but what we're finding are really significant numbers on the surface of the fly that will survive." According to the study, insect parts can be smudged from almost 7 feet away.

We asked Day about it. He said that if a Salmonella-carrying fly falls victim to a zapper near a picnic table, "there is a chance that bacteria on the fly's surface could become airborne and possibly into your sandwich." But, he added, "if you look at some of the things flies feed on, having the fly walk on your sandwich is probably a lot more dangerous than having the fly vaporize on your sandwich."

Bug Zapper Makers love them anyway

We spoke to Brian Provost, International Sales Representative and Customer Service ManagerFlowtron, a leading manufacturer of insect killers. I did not agree with these ideas. Provost told us that with an extra attractant cartridge (entomology professor Dayreferredcalling these attractants "the latest marketing gimmick"), that insect killers will kill mosquitoes, and that Flowtron is getting a lot of orders from overseas, where people "want them to get rid of mosquito-borne diseases like malaria, encephalitis, West Nile virus and yellow reduce fever virus, stuff like that. Regarding insect killers disrupting the ecosystem, Provost told us that "the remains [of dead bugs] go to the ground, where they remain a food source for smaller bugs and insects."

Regarding pollinators, Provost "didn't entirely agree" that insect killers killed them, saying that butterflies and bees are not among those attracted to light. He told us, "I've spoken to people who have had apple orchards and they're very happy because it doesn't affect any of the pollinators that they naturally want for apple production."

As for the diseased cloudy bug bits, Provost told us, "I've heard just about everything from the good to the bad, the sublime to the bizarre, and quite frankly, that's not something we're concerned about."

At Amazon and other retailers, we've found that the feedback on bug zappers is generally positive, but that's all very anecdotal. Conlon told us that "when it comes to mosquito control, you can't rely on anecdotes from the internet". Many reviews contain pictures of insect killers covered with dead insects. But without entomological training, it's impossible to know what kind of creature it is. It's also impossible to understand how the zapper is affecting the ecosystem, whether or not it is attracting more insects to the area, and whether the decline in insect populations has had an impact on other species.

What to use instead of a bug zapper

We prefer dealing with insects in a garden or on a patioInsect sprayaerosol or spaceMosquito repelling equipment for your patio or garden. As Laurence Onion, a Vanderbilt Professor of Biological Sciences and Pharmacology, told us, “Repellents don't kill anything. They just say: "Don't bite that, don't eat that". Go live a long and happy life." He also noted that ultimately, "You want to keep [insects] away, you don't want to attract them."

Our first recommendation is to use a spray repellent. We recommend something with a 20 percent concentration of picaridin, which is just as effective as DEET. But unlike DEET, picaridin is virtually odorless and doesn't attack plastics. We have recommendations for both types in our guidethe best insect repellents.

Another option if you're sitting on a patio or deck and want to avoid the hassle of a spray repellent is to use a space repellent. This desktop unit emits a light repellent vapor into the air, protecting a limited area from mosquitoes. They work as long as there is no breeze, as we found out during our researchGuide to mosquito control for your patio or garden.

A third option is to use a fan. Mosquitoes are weak fliers and cannot keep up with a strong breeze (the kind you get from fans that we recommend). "If you can plug something in and want to reduce mosquito bites on your patio or in your yard," Onion said, "I would just buy a big fan and blow the air on me and my guests."

Conlon, who's also a fan of fans, recommends keeping airflow low, below table height, because some mosquito species (including those that transmit Zika) "prefer to bite their lower extremities" and "like to hide among mosquitoes." Outdoors." Furniture." Day also points his fan downward, telling us that as the wind picks up, mosquitoes "move lower and lower in the air column until they reach the transition zone just above the ground, where there is no wind and they fly on it."

After all, we still hope that one dayphotonic scintillation, the mosquito killer laserintellectual companies, will be available. Someday. Until then, we can only dream.

previously mentioned

  • Our repellent recommendations are EPA-approved, expert-backed, and tested by us. The best insect repellents
  • Create a bug-free outdoor bubble with these space bug repellents. The best mosquito repellent equipment for your patio or garden.
  • The best kit for killing flies and other common household pests. The best equipment to kill insects
  • How to treat an ant problem at home. The best ant killer
  • Clean out a stuffy room with these effective exhaust fans. best fan

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  • Citronella candles don't really work. stop buying them.

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Are insect killers effective? ›

Bug zappers kill bugs by the thousands. But there's a problem: They kill the wrong bugs. They are ineffective against mosquitoes and other biting flies, and their otherwise indiscriminate killing can disrupt pollination and generally throw the environment out of balance.

Why does bug spray not work? ›

Instead, studies have shown that individual mosquitoes, once exposed to a repellent such as DEET, can become habituated to the chemical. This habituation allows that particular bug to ignore the chemical's repellent qualities.

Do bug zappers actually work? ›

In terms of overall effectiveness for insect control, bug zappers are highly effective in diminishing pests and can kill as many as 10,000 bugs in just one night. However, they are virtually ineffective against mosquitoes and biting insects.

Do bug zappers kill good bugs? ›

Based on the study's results, bug zappers are killing beneficial insects like beetles and moths, which can result in negative effects on local ecosystems.

Why is bug spray so effective? ›

The active ingredients in bug spray are designed to mask or hide the scent of carbon dioxide so insects can't find you. For additional repellant power, bug sprays also include scents that bugs find repulsive to keep them even further away.

Are bug treatments safe? ›

For the most part pest control chemicals are completely safe. However, they have to be handled carefully by someone who's trained to use them or safety could become an issue.

Can bug spray attract bugs? ›

While not all bugs are given bait, the pesticides can still make the bugs more active right after treatment. It usually stirs the bugs up for a few days, so it can seem like there are more bugs than ever before. In reality, they are coming near the pesticide and that's attracting them, so it seems like there are more.

How long does bug killer spray take to work? ›

The speed of kill depends on the amount of insecticide they pick up and their susceptibility to the insecticide. However, even on a freshly sprayed surface, the insects don't pick up much insecticide and it will take minutes or even hours for the insect to die.

Is spraying for bugs worth it? ›

Professional exterminating provides faster and more effective results than do-it-yourself methods, in most cases. They can also save you money in the future by identifying pest problems early and eliminating them fast, preventing a costly infestation and/or damage in the future.

Do bug zappers just attract more bugs? ›

"They simply do not work as advertised. In fact, bug zappers actually make things worse by attracting more mosquitoes into your yard, and they end up killing thousands of beneficial insects that don't bother people."

How long do you leave bug zappers on? ›

The most efficient and effective way to run a bug zapper is to leave it on 24/7. By doing this, you help break down the insect breeding cycle. Alternatively, run your bug zapper from dusk to dawn.

Do bug zappers work on flies and mosquitoes? ›

Outdoor bug zappers are the most efficient means of clearing out mosquitos, flies, gnats and other insects. These zappers typically look like an outdoor lamp but feature a UV light to attract and kill insects.

Where is the best place to put a bug zapper? ›

You'll want to find an outside outlet, as this device needs to be plugged in. Ideally, place this device 20-40 feet away from areas where people gather. This gives room to draw bugs away from you while eliminating other light sources that might be near the zapper.

Do electric bug zappers use a lot of electricity? ›

However, the interesting thing is that they do not consume much electricity. For a large electric bug zapper, the highest they can use is 100 watts, even depending on how much you use it. On average, it could use 20 cents of electricity daily, even by switching two units on and leaving all night.

Do bugs suffer when sprayed? ›

We've probably all observed insects struggling in a spider's web or writhing after being sprayed with insecticide; they look like they might be in pain. Insects can also learn to avoid electric shocks, suggesting that they don't like being shocked.

Do bugs feel pain? ›

Over 15 years ago, researchers found that insects, and fruit flies in particular, feel something akin to acute pain called “nociception.” When they encounter extreme heat, cold or physically harmful stimuli, they react, much in the same way humans react to pain.

What spray do bugs hate? ›

Citronella Oil

Small bugs usually hate citrus, so citrus oil sprays are common in homemade repellents. Mix equal parts water with witch hazel (a half cup of each works well). Witch hazel is an alcohol-based astringent that is commonly used in DIY repellents.

Is bug spray safe when dry? ›

While most insecticide poisonings occur from swallowing the chemical, the ingredients can be absorbed through your skin or by breathing airborne particles. Once the material has dried, this risk is greatly diminished.

Can I sleep with bug spray on? ›

Is it Ok to Sleep with Bug Spray On? Photo courtesy of Caleigh Waldman via the New York Times. Since most bug sprays are chemical, it's good to wash it off when you go into your lake house. However, if you fall asleep after a long day in the sun, you're probably fine.

Do bugs get worse after treatment? ›

No need to be concerned, it is completely normal to see more bugs after receiving a pest control treatment. More often than not, simply giving the treatment time to kick in will remedy the situation.

Can bed bugs come back after 2 months? ›

Yes, bed bugs can come back after a year.

Bed bugs are excellent at reproducing and building up their colony size if they aren't fully eliminated. If you used a DIY treatment that didn't eliminate all the bed bugs in the colony, then there's always the chance that they'll remain in hiding until they've reproduced.

What smell bugs hate? ›

Those most closely associated with repellency are citronella oil, eucalyptus oil, and catnip oil, but others include clove oil, patchouli, peppermint, and geranium.

Does vinegar spray attract bugs? ›

Vinegar repels certain insects and attracts others. Spraying or wiping diluted vinegar on surfaces deters ants and spiders, yet if you put a container of vinegar near a fruit fly infestation, the little flies are attracted to it and drown.

How do you get rid of roaches when nothing is working? ›

Borax is a readily-available laundry product that's excellent for killing roaches. For best results, combine equal parts borax and white table sugar. Dust the mixture any place you've seen roach activity. When the roaches consume the borax, it will dehydrate them and kill them rapidly.

How often do you need to apply bug spray? ›

Keep your bug spray and sunscreen separate

Sunscreen should be applied liberally all over your exposed skin and reapplied every two hours. Bug spray should be used carefully, and you shouldn't need to apply it more than once per day.

Does Roach spray work immediately? ›

The answer is, once you spray roaches, they will not immediately come out. Sometimes you have to wait for two to two weeks before the pest comes out and other times; they don't come out at all because maybe they have already adapted to the sprays you have used.

What time of year should you spray your house for bugs? ›

Ideal Season For Pest Spray Treatments

The best time to have your home sprayed is in early spring. By spraying in the spring, you have the opportunity to destroy nests and colonies when pest numbers are low. The treatment has less work to do, making it more effective and longer lasting.

What can I spray around my house to keep bugs out? ›

Try mixing a few drops of peppermint oil with some hot water and place it in a spray bottle. A good ratio is 5 to 10 drops of essential oil per ounce of water. Use the mixture to spray down countertops, furniture, curtains and blinds and hard-to-reach areas of the home where insects are often present.

What is the best spray for all bugs? ›

Ladybugs don't like the smell of camphor menthol, citrus or clove scents. Use a couple drops of one of these essential oils mixed with water in a spray bottle and spray in areas where the ladybugs are congregating. Often, they will leave the premises.

What scent kills bugs? ›

Blood Orange Oil

This essential oil is proven to be one of the most effective solutions when bed bugs are the matter as it can kill the pest successfully. The scent can keep those pests away from your home and will prevent them from coming back.

Are gnats attracted to bug zappers? ›

One of the most effective methods for controlling and getting rid of gnats is by using a bug zapper. These devices attract gnats and electrocute them, causing them to die and collect in the bottom of the device.

Why is my bug zapper so loud? ›

As the bug flies toward the light, it penetrates the space between the wire-mesh grids and completes the electric circuit. High-voltage electric current flows through the insect and vaporizes it. You often hear a loud "ZZZZ" sound when this happens.

Do bug zappers attract house flies? ›

Electric Fly Zappers will attract flies from a great distance. Placing Electric Fly Zappers close to the building will attract them to the building.

Why do you not hang a bug zapper from the house? ›

To avoid contamination by these bugs after they get electrocuted due to the harmful particles they release, it is important to place bug zappers some feet away from the house where people are.

Do cockroaches like bug zappers? ›

It is designed to kill flying insects that are attracted to the color of light produced by the device. But the bug zapper does not control cockroaches because they are not attracted to this color of light. Figure 10-3. Cockroaches survive, even thrive when ultrasonic devices are placed in infested dwellings.

Can I leave my bug zapper on in the rain? ›

First, bug zappers can not accommodate water while in operation. You can't leave bug zappers in the rain, and it will spoil the system. The zapper might stop functioning as it should. The only case where you can leave your bug zapper in the rain is when you have it under shades that protect it from the rainwater.

What kills mosquitoes inside the house? ›

Use an indoor insect fogger or indoor insect spray to kill mosquitoes and treat areas where they rest. These products work immediately, and may need to be reapplied. When using insecticides, always follow label directions. Only using insecticide will not keep your home free of mosquitoes.

Does it have to be dark for a bug zapper to work? ›

If you want to use a bug zapper outdoors during the day, put it under a shaded area or a tree. This way, bugs around that area might be attracted to the UV light since it's not directly under sunlight. Indoors, you don't really have much of a problem, especially when your space is dimly lit.

Which state has the least mosquitoes? ›

States like Arizona, New Mexico, and Nevada have the lowest mosquito populations because these have the most arid climates.

Is there a plant that repels mosquitoes? ›

Citronella Grass (Lemon Grass)

Known for its distinct smell, citronella grass (or lemon grass) is the most commonly used natural ingredient in mosquito repellants. In fact, the Brooklyn Botanic Garden recommends lemon-scented plants such as citronella grass to keep mosquitoes at bay.

What keeps mosquitoes away? ›

10 Natural Ingredients That Repel Mosquitoes
  • Lemon eucalyptus oil.
  • Lavender.
  • Cinnamon oil.
  • Thyme oil.
  • Greek catmint oil.
  • Soybean oil.
  • Citronella.
  • Tea tree oil.

Are bug zappers worth the money? ›

Our experts agree – as do a number of authorities in mosquito control – that bug zappers are an extremely ineffective way to get rid of your pests. To keep your space free of pests and prevent yourself from getting painful bites this summer, there are a number of other pest control solutions you can try!

What can I put in my bug zapper to attract flies? ›

Use Fly Attract with all models of bug zapper and trappers to make your bug zapper or trapper more attractive to common household flies. Fly Attract Lure is scientifically proven to attract flies using a safe chemical called tricosene, which will mimic female flies and attract male flies to the lure.

What can I hang my bug zapper on? ›

Use a garden shepherd's hook.

If you get a double-sided hook, you can hang a zapper on one side and a flower basket on the other for a more blended aesthetic! Run an outdoor-rated extension cord from your power source to the zapper. Use tape or zip ties to secure the cord along the post.

What voltage is an electric bug zapper? ›

A bug zapper uses a high-voltage alternating current to kill bugs. Most bugs and mosquitoes have a resistance of 0.70 – 0.75, whereas the voltage for the Zapper is between 500 to 1800 volts ac.

Do bug zappers attract spiders? ›

Like other insects, spiders are attracted to lights, and bug zappers have bright built-in lights. Unfortunately for the spiders, the zappers also electrocute them when they make contact. If you have an indoor spider Infestation, you can install bug zappers in the areas of Infestation.

How quickly does insect killer work? ›

The speed of kill depends on the amount of insecticide they pick up and their susceptibility to the insecticide. However, even on a freshly sprayed surface, the insects don't pick up much insecticide and it will take minutes or even hours for the insect to die.

What do professional bug killers use? ›

Most pest control companies use pesticides called pyrethrins and pyrethroids, including Permethrin. These mimic natural and organic pesticides found in varieties of chrysanthemums. There are also a few other chemicals that are used but sometimes not as common.

How often should you spray your house with bug spray? ›

For apartments and homes, we recommend regular pest control treatments on a quarterly basis, or even bi-monthly, in order to effectively prevent common pests or when you move into a new home or apartment. For more serious infestations, monthly treatments over the course of 3 to 6 months are advisable.

Do bugs feel fear? ›

They can be optimistic, cynical, or frightened, and respond to pain just like any mammal would.

Do bugs feel pain when you squish them? ›

Researchers have looked at how insects respond to injury, and come to the conclusion that there is evidence to suggest that they feel something akin to what humans class as pain.

Can bugs feel pain? ›

Over 15 years ago, researchers found that insects, and fruit flies in particular, feel something akin to acute pain called “nociception.” When they encounter extreme heat, cold or physically harmful stimuli, they react, much in the same way humans react to pain.

How long does bug spray last after spraying? ›

A typical pest control application will last around 90 days. If outdoor applications see consistent or heavy rainfall, they efficacy may be affected and will last about 60 days. Pesticides used to treat flying insects like mosquitoes or flies will last around 30 days.

Do bugs come out after spraying? ›

Also, bugs will come out after spray because they will die. Bugs will appear afterward and it is typical for every pest treatment. When pests are sprayed, their movements are slowed down until they die in the end. Sometimes, it needs two hours for bugs for them to be eliminated.

Is professional bug spray toxic to humans? ›

Poisonous Ingredient

Most household bug sprays contain plant-derived chemicals called pyrethrins. These chemicals were originally isolated from chrysanthemum flowers and are generally not harmful. However, they can cause life-threatening breathing problems if they are breathed in.

How do you make your own bug killer? ›

Mix 1 part oil of lemon eucalyptus or lavender essential oil with 10 parts witch hazel in the bottle. (For each drop of oil, use 10 drops of witch hazel.) Shake gently to mix. Spray to apply.

How long do bed bugs live? ›

The typical life span of a bed bug is between 10 months and a year. In general, bed bugs seek a meal of blood every 4 or 5 days. However, they can survive for weeks to a year without eating. Take care to read all labels before applying any pesticides.


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