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Darwin Correspondence Project

From Thomas White Woodbury   [9–22 October 1861]1

I fancy the articles on “The Queen Bee” and on “Drone Influence” may not be without interest2   Since writing the latter, I have met with another instance of the same kind, one of my drones (Ligurian) having hybridised a queen at a distance of a mile and a half3   What renders it more remarkable, is that in both instances the city of Exeter lay between the lovers as well as several apiaries of common bees. One of these (Mr S. B. Fox’s)4 contained an unusual number of drones.

Yours | T. W. W.

CD annotations

End of letter: ‘Woodbury | Mount Radford | Exeter’ ink


The date is established by the references to Woodbury’s articles on bees (see nn. 2 and 3, below).
‘Drone influence, to what distance does it extend?’ and ‘Age of the queen bee’ appeared in the Journal of Horticulture, 8 October 1861, p. 39. CD’s annotated copy of the issue, with Woodbury’s letter pinned to the facing page, is in the Darwin Library–CUL.
Woodbury communicated this observation, which he noted was made 9 October 1861, in the Journal of Horticulture, 22 October 1861, p. 77. CD cited Woodbury’s observations in Variation 1: 299. CD used Woodbury’s information on Ligurian drones to counter the view that ‘common’ bees were a case of ‘inevitable close interbreeding’ (Variation 2: 126).
Sylvanus Bevan Fox. CD cited Fox as an authority on bee species in Variation 1: 298.


Fancies articles on "The queen bee" and "Drone influence" [J. Hortic. 8 October 1861, p. 39] may be of interest. Since writing the latter, one of his drones hybridised a queen at a distance of a mile and a half.

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 3280F,” accessed on 24 February 2019,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 13 (Supplement)