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Darwin Correspondence Project

To W. B. Tegetmeier   9 May [1858]1

Down Bromley Kent

May 9th

My dear Sir

Very many thanks about Owls’ eggs,2 for your note, & nice little Treatise.—3 I am sorry to hear that the cylindrical cells are mislaid, for I shd. have very much have liked to have examined their bases or point of attachment.—4

My object in writing now is to know whether you often examine your Hives & slides.—5 If you do, & shd. stumble on the very first commencement of the comb, I shd. excessively like to see it. Huber says that first, a very thin & very low littleridge is made;6 & then one one face7 the base of a single cell is hollowed out, &on the opposite face, the bases of two cells. He states that first the outlines ofthese 3 primordial cells are arched, (section [DIAGRAM] ) & then made angular ( [DIAGRAM] ).

Now what I what I want so much to see is this rudiment of the comb in this state. I believe when the arched bases of the cells are made angular, the bases of other adjoining cells have just been commenced.8 The hexagonal tube or prism has not been at this period hardly been begun; & all must be very minute. Will you kindly aid me if you can, in this respect; though I can plainly see that it is very improbable that you can, for it wd require incessant watching or a rare piece of good luck.

I shall not be able to begin on my M.S on Pigeons for a fortnight yet.—9 This note requires no answer, & I know how busy you are.

My dear Sir | Yours sincerely | C. Darwin


Dated by the relationship to the letter to W. B. Tegetmeier, [21 April 1858].
See letters to W. B. Tegetmeier, 14 April [1858] and [21 April 1858]. CD refers to the eggs of the owl-pigeon.
Probably Tegetmeier 1858a.
Tegetmeier’s modified beehive, described in Cottage Gardener, 20 (1858): 59, was partly devised to ‘permit any single bar of comb to be extracted, without disturbing the others’.
F. Huber 1814, pp. 141–3. CD’s annotated copy of the work is in the Darwin Library–CUL. CD made many notes on these pages, questioning François Huber’s description of the construction of bees’ cells. See also letter to W. E. Darwin, [26 May 1858].
CD apparently intended to write ‘on one’ and inserted ‘one’ instead of ‘on’ (see MS alterations and comments).
In a note headed ‘May 8/1858 Opened Straw Hive of Mr Innes.’ (DAR 48 (ser. 2): 22), CD described his observations of the shape of the bases of bees’ cells, stating, in part: ‘The attachment of comb very irregular to Hive: I cd detect the pentagonal upper cells: but the bases were in all cases *slightly concave, or sub-angular or [interl] flat & irregular. *They are not perfectly angular. [added]’.


Huber, François. 1814. Nouvelles observations sur les abeilles. 2d edition. 2 vols. Paris and Geneva: J. J. Paschoud.


Inquires about the structure and formation of bees’ comb; is interested in seeing its form at the commencement of building.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
William Bernhard Tegetmeier
Sent from
Source of text
Archives of the New York Botanical Garden (Charles Finney Cox Collection)
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 2271,” accessed on 20 September 2021,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 7