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Darwin Correspondence Project

From H. T. Stainton   7 March 1868

Mountsfield, | Lewisham. | S.E.

March 7th 1868

My dear Mr Darwin,

With reference to the protection which the females of the Brimstone Butterfly & Orange Tip derive from their resemblance to White Butterflies—the latter are so ubiquitous that there is no doubt that all occur together—but unless you find that birds refuse to catch the Common white butterflies I am afraid the others would derive no protection from this resemblance, except from young Entomologists, a class I fear hardly sufficiently numerous to produce a sensible effect on the colouring of female butterflies.1

Dr Wallace’s suggestion with reference to the larvæ of females being collected in preference to those of males from their larger size is no doubt a very good one.—2 In the case of the Vapourer Moths—the larger size of the female larvæ must sensibly operate in attracting the eye of the collector & in the Emperor Moth the same thing would operate.3 It was to eliminate this source of error that I appealed to breeders for their experience in breeding whole broods of species.

I have now to thank you for your very kind present of your last new work, which reached me yesterday.4

I regret only that the little information I have been able to give you has not been of a more satisfactory nature

Yours very sincerely | H. T— Stainton

C. Darwin Esq

CD annotations

1.1 With … female butterflies. 1.7] crossed pencil
2.1 Dr Wallace’s … collector 2.4] scored pencil
3.1 I have … nature 4.2] crossed pencil
Top of letter: ‘Keep | No of sexes’ pencil


See letter to H. T. Stainton, 28 February [1868]. CD had referred to the cabbage butterfly (Pieris brassicae).
See letter to H. T. Stainton, 2 March [1868] and n. 5. Stainton refers to Alexander Wallace.
Stainton refers to Orgyia antiqua (the vapourer moth) and Saturnia pavonia (the emperor moth).
Stainton’s name appears on CD’s presentation list for the second printing of the first edition of Variation (see Correspondence vol. 16, Appendix IV).


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

Variation: The variation of animals and plants under domestication. By Charles Darwin. 2 vols. London: John Murray. 1868.


Protective coloration in butterflies.

[Alexander] Wallace’s suggestion that collecting larger larvae of females accounts for error in counting proportion of sexes.

Letter details

Letter no.
Henry Tibbats Stainton
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 86: A19–20
Physical description
3pp † & ACC 2pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 5994,” accessed on 27 September 2021,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 16