Obliged for JW's information on variability of size of bees' cells. Hexagonal cells not always work of several insects. W. H. Miller found great variability in thickness of cell walls.
Down. | Bromley. | Kent. S.E.
Feb 2 1866
I am very much obliged to you for your interesting letter of
As so much has been written of late about Bees cells, I cannot but think that your
With respect to your remark that the hexagonal cell always results from the
co-operation of several bees, you must remember the comb began by the solitary female
I may add that Prof. Miller carefully measured for me the thickness of the cell-walls & found great variability in their thickness. With my best thanks for your kindness in writing
I remain dear Sir yours very faithfully | Ch. Darwin
- f1 4994.f1See letter from Jeffries Wyman, 11 January 1866.
- f2 4994.f2See letter from Jeffries Wyman, 11 January 1866 and n. 2. In successive editions of Origin, CD modified his account of the cell-making instinct of the hive-bee to incorporate evidence of variability in the structure of cells (see Peckham ed. 1959, pp. 52, 54, 402--12). For more on CD's deliberation over the problem of the hive-bee's cell-building instinct, see Prete 1990.
- f3 4994.f3René Antoine Ferchault de Réaumur suggested that the cell of the hive-bee might formerly have been adopted in preference to the pendulum-based standards as a standard unit of measurement (Réaumur 1734--42, 5: 398--9). On pendulums and their limitations as standards of measurement, see McGreevy 1995, 1: 140--2. Although Réaumur had acknowledged that individual cells varied slightly in their dimensions, he observed negligible variation in the mean size of a large sample of cells (ibid., pp. 379--98).
- f4 4994.f4For CD's view that the shape of the cell of the bee had developed as a result of successive modifications of instinct, see the letter from Jeffries Wyman, 11 January 1866, n. 6.
- f5 4994.f5CD refers to the flattened bases of the abnormal cells illustrated by figures 2 and 3 in the letter from Wyman of 11 January 1866. CD had argued in Origin, pp. 224--7, that the regular shape of the individual cell of the hive-bee, with its pyramidal base, is due to the way that the cells are aggregated to form the comb.
- f6 4994.f6In his letter of 11 January 1866, Wyman had not informed CD of his paper `Notes on the cells of the bee' (Wyman 1866), which he read on 9 January 1866 at a meeting of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and in which he referred to CD. There is an annotated, inscribed, copy in the Darwin Pamphlet Collection--CUL.
- f7 4994.f7See letter from Jeffries Wyman, 11 January 1866 and n. 7.
- f8 4994.f8At Wyman's suggestion, Frederic Ward Putnam had sent CD a copy of Putnam 1863a, which CD would not yet have received (see letter from Jeffries Wyman, 11 January 1866 and nn. 9 and 10, and letter from F. W. Putnam, 29 January 1866). There is an annotated copy in the Darwin Pamphlet Collection--CUL.
- f9 4994.f9CD wrote of the queen wasp's ability to make hexagonal cells in Origin, p. 233. CD had obtained information about wasps' nests from Erasmus Alvey Darwin, Frederick Smith, and George Robert Waterhouse in 1858 (Correspondence vol. 7); see also Correspondence vol. 8, letter from J. S. Henslow, 7 April 1860.
- f10 4994.f10The comb of the wasp is built by the queen alone (F. Smith 1864, p. 139). Smith described only one species of wasp, Apoica pallida, as building hexagonal combs (ibid., p. 137--8). However, he named three further species as capable of building isolated hexagonal cells (ibid., p. 140), and gave several examples of hexagonal cells occurring at the edge of the comb (ibid., pp. 135--6).
- f11 4994.f11Notes made by CD about bee cells, many dating from between 1858 and 1860, are in the Darwin Archive--CUL (DAR 48: B1--78). See letter from Jeffries Wyman, 11 January 1866 and n. 3.
- f12 4994.f12In 1860, CD obtained information from William Hallowes Miller on the thickness of the cell walls of the hive-bee (see Correspondence vol. 8). Miller's information on bee cells is cited in Origin 3d ed., p. 252.