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Darwin Correspondence Project

From W. J. Beal   22 October 1874

my address Office of | Superintendent of Horticultural Department, | State Agricultural College, | Lansing, Mich.,

Oct 22 1874

Mr. Chas. Darwin,

I see a printed note going through some of our periodicals said to be written by yourself in reference to birds cutting off the flowers of primrose, cowslip &c.1

Permit me to refer you to a note of mine in American Naturalist Page 380. Vol 2. 1869.2 The honey bee gleaning after the oriole had picked holes in lower part of Missouri current—(Ribes Aureum) Calyx.3 In this case, little girls were picking the flowers for the honey. Humble bees in large numbers were getting the honey in the legitimate way by taking it through the tube and so aiding in cross fertilization.

Yours very truly, | W. J. Beal. | a former student of Dr Gray.

CD annotations

End of letter: ‘[‘This’ del] It is rather curious that H. Bees did not profit by hole, though Hive did, unless size of flowers interfered with the Humble, but [2 words illeg] the orioles make hole— no more wonderful than birds doing so with cherry blossoms.— | It looks as if Humble-bees less intelligent.—’ ink


See CD’s letters to Nature, 18 April [1874] and 7 May [1874].
Beal 1868.
CD cited Beal for the information on orioles biting the calyx of Ribes aureum (the golden currant) in Cross and self fertilisation, p. 432.


Cross and self fertilisation: The effects of cross and self fertilisation in the vegetable kingdom. By Charles Darwin. London: John Murray. 1876.


Sends his observation of honey-bees gleaning after orioles had made holes in calyx of Missouri currant, while humble-bees were getting honey through the tube in the usual way.

Letter details

Letter no.
William James Beal
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
State Agric. Coll., Lansing, Mich.
Source of text
DAR 46.2: C60
Physical description
2pp †

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 9691,” accessed on 28 September 2021,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 22