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Darwin Correspondence Project

From J. S. Henslow   7 April 1860


7 April 1860

My dear Darwin,

I send you all I can well manage—a mere sketch of what you might expect to find if you think the specimen sufficiently interesting to have it forwarded—2

now hidden under cotton wool at the top of the bell glass [angle] about 45o thin places like bases of cells change to [angle] about 30o change to quite horizontal cell hexagonal the outside ones half cylindrical crushed crushed

it is suspended from inside of a bell glass by liquid & cotton wool—I can easily detach it by Alcohol— The edges are somewhat crushed here & there, & altogether it is beyond my opportunities to examine it so thoroughly as to give you any very precise details— I find it came from Cuba not Mexico, as I told you. The material resembles that of the nests of V. vulgaris & V. holsatica—firm fibre—not the herbaceous materials which become so rotten in the nests of V. crabro & V. rufa—& look as if these were composed of rotten wood— Perhaps they may be in part—but certainly not entirely, for I have found the material, when freshly laid on, quite green in some cases—

My Curate is away for a fortnight, & I have my hands full— but I did not like to defer this scanty account any longer— If you prefer propounding Questions, to seeing the specimen I will endeavour to answer them—but not feelin⁠⟨⁠g sure⁠⟩⁠ of what you exactly want I am at a loss—

Ever Yrs affec, | J S Henslow

CD annotations

Diagram: ‘Speaks of cells vertical & horizontal’ pencil

CD note:3

Ap. 23d. 18604 Mr Smith showed me a supposed paper wasp nest from Siam also vertical—with cells at top inclined downwards at about 45o & then horizontal; but oddly at lower end of several narrow strips of comb they bend inwards & become horizontal—so that cells at lower end are vertical.— Some of cells at outside are quite cylindrical.— Mr Smith showed me wasps nest with common worker & Queen cells with 4 rows of intermedial gradation—with side-walls elongated, which looks as if distance of building was increased.— Great rm difference in size of Queen & Worker cells.— Waterhouse remarked Queen cell normal form—and not lower half 12 sphere, for this would suffice for all to work


The abbreviation stands for Hitcham Rectory, Suffolk, where Henslow lived.
In the letter to J. S. Henslow, 2 April [1860], CD had requested information about the form of cells in a wasps’ nest in Henslow’s possession. The diagram has been reduced: the original measures 12 inches and was drawn in ink over pencil.
The note was written on the verso of Henslow’s letter.
CD was in London from 21 to 24 April 1860 (Emma Darwin’s diary). He apparently visited Frederick Smith and George Robert Waterhouse at the British Museum, where both were employed.


Sketch and description of a [wasp’s] nest from Cuba. [Notes by CD on wasps’ nests and comb-building habits of hive-bees.]

Letter details

Letter no.
John Stevens Henslow
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 166.1:180

[diagram here]

Physical description
2pp ††, CD note

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 2750,” accessed on 29 November 2021,

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