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Darwin Correspondence Project

From Edward Wilson   7 December 1867

Hayes. | Bromley, Kent.

7th. Decr. 1867

My dear Mr. Darwin

We are taking steps to get out the Humble Bee to Australia,1 & are anxious to avail ourselves of the ice house in which a shipment of Salmon Ova is being forwarded within the next few weeks to Otago.2

Mr. Woodbury, the great Apiarian, tells us, that the only way to get it out is to send forward Queen-bees during their condition of hibernation.3

The question is, where to find them, and my neighbour Mr. Reed4 tells me, that some of yr. sons have a special genius in that way— Would you oblige me by giving them a hint of what we want & inducing them if possible, to put us in the way of finding a few specimens.5

As the Salmon Ova will be sent away as soon as it can be obtained from the fish there is not much time to lose, but I should think it will be the end of the month before anything will be finally done.

I am my dear Mr. Darwin | Yrs. very sincerely | Edw Wilson

CD note:

: Boys given up & not at home— Very difficult to find * They are J. L. most likely, because he investigated a curious parasite6 according I went to him this mng, asking him, if he cd find any to send them direct to you.—


Humble-bees (Bombus spp.) are not indigenous to Australia; although a species of Bombus was introduced at some time before 1912, it did not persist (Franklin 1912, pp. 186, 202–3). Wilson was influential in introducing many animals and plants to Australia. For more on Wilson’s activities in this area, see Gillbank 1986.
Salmon do not occur naturally in New Zealand (Doak 1972). A technique in which ova were transported on moss inside ‘ice houses’ on board ship was used to introduce salmon and trout from England to Australia and New Zealand; the first successful shipment arrived in Tasmania in 1864 (Nicols 1882, pp. 9–31). Wilson refers to the shipment of salmon ova to the province of Otago, New Zealand, on board the Celestial Queen, which sailed from England in January 1868 (Nicols 1882, p. 237). For more on the introduction of salmon and trout to Australia and New Zealand, as pioneered by James Arndell Youl in association with Wilson, see Nicols 1882. The work of the Acclimatization Society of New Zealand, including its policy of introducing species of economic benefit, such as salmon, is described in H. F. von Haast 1948, pp. 278–93.
Thomas White Woodbury introduced Ligurian honey bees to Australia; at Wilson’s request, Woodbury had despatched four stocks of these bees from London to Melbourne in September 1862 (R. H. Brown 1975, p. 30).
George Varenne Reed.
On the assistance CD received from his children in his observations of male Bombus, see, for example, Freeman 1968.
CD refers to his neighbour John Lubbock, whose research on parasites of Bombus terrestris and other Bombus species had involved the collection of humble-bees during the winter months (see Lubbock 1864).


Brown, R. H. 1975. One thousand years of Devon beekeeping. Devon: Devon Beekeepers Association.

Doak, Wade. 1972. Fishes of the New Zealand region. Auckland, New Zealand: Hodder and Stoughton.

Franklin, Henry James. 1912. The Bombidae of the New World. Transactions of the American Entomological Society 38: 177–486.

Freeman, Richard Broke. 1968. Charles Darwin on the routes of male humble bees. Bulletin of the British Museum (Natural History) Historical Series 3 (1962–9): 177–89.

Gillbank, L. 1986. The origins of the Acclimatisation Society of Victoria: practical science in the wake of the gold rush. Historical Records of Australian Science 6 (1984–7): 359–74.

Haast, Heinrich Ferdinand von. 1948. The life and times of Sir Julius von Haast, explorer, geologist, museum builder. Wellington, New Zealand: privately published.

Nicols, Arthur. 1882. The acclimatisation of the Salmonidae at the Antipodes: its history and results. London: Sampson Low, Marston, Searle, & Rivington.


Wants to catch some queen bees to ship to Australia; wonders whether CD’s sons can help.

Letter details

Letter no.
Edward Wilson
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Hayes, Kent
Source of text
DAR 181: 121
Physical description
3pp †

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 5709,” accessed on 7 December 2021,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 15