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Darwin Correspondence Project

From J. Burningham1   [10 September 1858?]2


I have examined the ants nest o〈  〉 〈    〉 high ground but did not find any yellow ones— thare whare a grate many eggs b〈u〉t saw a very few ants either in the nest or on the outside   the ceasd to carry eggs in about a week after you left3 and soon after deserted that Part altogeather I mean the 〈2 or 3 words missing〉 is not 〈1 word missing〉 a〈n〉t to 〈be〉 seen those 〈1 word missing〉 yellow 〈  〉s under the 〈    〉 dont seem to have been disturbed   the ants on the high ground have not collected any rubbish for a nest.

I know 〈a〉n Hor〈ne〉ts nest near the Caves4 in an hollow tree   part of it is quite open

Yours Obediently | J Burningham


Possibly James Burningham of Gatten, just north of Shanklin, Isle of Wight (Census returns 1851 (Isle of Wight Record Office)).
The date is conjectured from the endorsement, and from CD’s 1858 visit to the Isle of Wight (see n. 3, below).
CD made notes on ants carrying pupae during a visit to the Isle of Wight from 16 July to 13 August 1858, when he stayed in both Sandown and Shanklin (DAR 205.11: 94; see also Correspondence vol. 7, Appendix II). However, he also made notes on the yellow ant, Formica flava, during visits to Hartfield, Sussex, between 11 and 14 July 1858 and between 30 July and 1 August 1860 (DAR 205.11: 90–3, 99–102), and during a visit to Moor Park, Surrey, on 23 and 24 July 1859 (DAR 205.11: 96–7). Some of these notes form the basis for his discussions of the ‘slave-making instinct’ in Origin, pp. 219–24.
There are caves in the area south of Shanklin and in particular around Ventnor, Isle of Wight.


Reports his observations on an ants’ nest.

Letter details

Letter no.
James Burningham
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 160: 186 (fragile)
Physical description
2pp damaged †

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 4891,” accessed on 31 July 2021,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 13 (Supplement)