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Darwin Correspondence Project

From Frederick Smith   [c. 10 March 1868?]1

As a general rule you are aware that throughout the Aculeate Hymenoptera the male is much smaller than the female, whenever the reverse occurs it is for a special purpose; as far as my observation has extended, in the following species it is a beautiful adaptation to a singular point in the economy of the insects; Apis mellifera ♂. Anthidium manicatum & Anthophora acervorum amongst the bees, and Methoca ichneumonides amongst the Fossores2—all carry off the females & copulate in the air.

My dear Sir

I have added this but dont know whether it may in any way fall into your investigations

believe me | Yours truly | Fredk Smith


The date is conjectured from the relationship between this letter and a note by CD, dated 10 March 1868 (DAR 81: 144), which suggests that CD had discussed sexual differences in bees with Smith at the British Museum.
Apis mellifera is the honey bee; Anthidium manicatum is the wool-carder bee; Anthophora acervorum is now A. plumipes, the hairy-footed flower bee. Methoca ichneumonides is now Methocha ichneumonides; the Fossores is a former group of ground-nesting wasps, whose members are now placed in the families Ampulicidae, Sphecidae, and Crabronidae. In Descent 1: 347, CD cited Smith for this information.


Descent: The descent of man, and selection in relation to sex. By Charles Darwin. 2 vols. London: John Murray. 1871.


On the relative size of sexes in aculeate Hymenoptera. [See Descent 1: 347–8.]

Letter details

Letter no.
Frederick Smith
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 82: 7
Physical description
1p inc †

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 6534,” accessed on 26 September 2021,

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