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Letter 5040

Darwin, C. R. to Müller, Albert

28 Mar [1866]


Writes on slave-making ants; cannot explain why fewer slaves are caught in England than in Switzerland.


Down Bromley Kent

March 28th

Dear Sir

I shd. have been very glad to have given you the desired information, had it been in my power; but I can assign no reason for fewer slaves being captured in England than in Switzerland.f2 That this is the case, can hardly be doubted after Mr Smith’s & my own examination of so many nests.—f3 I forget whether I stated in the earlier edition of the Origin that I had found one nest with the slaves going out in search of food.—f4

I remain Dear Sir | Yours faithfully | Ch. Darwin

University Library, Basel, Allgemeine Autographensammlung, D



The year is established by the relationship between this letter and the letter from Albert Müller, 28 March 1866.
See letter from Albert Müller, 28 March 1866 and nn. 2 and 3.
CD’s discussion of slave-making by Formica sanguinea and other ant species in Origin, pp. 219–24, was based primarily on observations made by him and the entomologist Frederick Smith in Britain (see Correspondence vols. 7 and 8). CD’s observations of slave-making ants, made between 1858 and 1860, are in DAR 205.11: 88–107. CD’s information on F. sanguinea in Switzerland was based on Huber 1810.
In Origin, p. 221, CD stated: ‘I observed a few slaves mingled with their masters leaving the nest, and marching along the same road to a tall Scotch-fir-tree … which they ascended together, probably in search of aphides or cocci.’ This passage was unaltered in subsequent editions.
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