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Darwin Correspondence Project

From Frederick Smith   3 April 1860

British Museum

3rd. April 1860

My dear Sir

I have carefully examined your Hive-bees from Jamaica1 and can detect not the slighest difference between them & A mollifica    dont accept this as my final determination because I intend to have another investigation—   You mentioned when here last that y〈ou〉 had a piece of honey-comb—〈or〉 had seen one—in which a beautiful gradation of enlargement in the hexagonal cells was shown—i.e. between worker cells & drone cells—   I said that I had seen the same in wasp combs—   at that time I was not aware that I had preserved a piece— which I will show you in which by a repeated widening of the cells laterally

[diag here]

in about four rows they became large enough for the Queens or females Qy—are the small Queens—alias large workers—reared in these transition cells?—

I am bothering you with my queries &c— —but exc〈use〉 me I pray.— There was a very animated discussion here 〈yes〉terday    speakers— Dr. Gray. Mr W〈ollaston〉 & Mr. P〈as〉coe2—or rather outpouring of opinion respecting the apterous or subapterous 〈Bruchoi〉ds— this brought to my mind that the same thing occurs in different genera of Insects—I dont think I have pointed it out & dont know whether you have noted it in any way—  I will only mention one genus in which it occurs—Pompilus    I believe every gradation of abbrevation may be found between the ample winged genus Macroceris & Brachypterus brevissimis—instances also occur in Coleoptera in which the same species is sometimes winged sometimes apterous or subapterous—Example—Calathus melanocephalus

excuse my troubling you if all this is a twice told tale | and believe me | Yours very truly | Fredk Smith

Chas. Darwin Esqre

CD annotations

0.1 My … cells— 1.6] crossed pencil
1.9 Qy … cells?— 1.10] scored brown crayon; ‘This refers to Wasp’ ink
2.7 Pompilus] ‘Yes’ ink; ‘Pompilidæ??’ pencil over ink
Top of first page: ‘10’3 brown crayon


The bees were sent to CD by Richard Hill. See Correspondence vol. 7, letter from Richard Hill, 26 November 1859.
Francis Polkinghorne Pascoe was a member of the Entomological Society of London. Smith refers to a meeting of the society on 2 April 1860 at which John William Douglas and John Obadiah Westwood exhibited specimens of weevils of the genus Bruchus that infested rice and palm nuts (Transactions of the Entomological Society n.s. 5: (1858–61), Proceedings, pp. 113–14). Presumably the discussion concerned the apterous or near-apterous state of weevils and other insects. The genus Pompilus referred to in the letter comprises the digging-wasps, which provision their nests with spiders. Smith also refers to John Edward Gray and Thomas Vernon Wollaston.
The number of CD’s portfolio of notes on instinct.


Correspondence: The correspondence of Charles Darwin. Edited by Frederick Burkhardt et al. 27 vols to date. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 1985–.


Has studied CD’s Jamaican hive-bees and finds them identical to Apis mellifica.

Discusses the structure of wasps’ and bees’ nests

and the occurrence of winged and apterous individuals within some insect genera and species.

Letter details

Letter no.
Frederick Smith
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
British Museum
Source of text
DAR 177 (fragile)
Physical description
4pp damaged †

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 2744,” accessed on 16 September 2021,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 8