To Jeffries Wyman 2 February 1866
Down. | Bromley. | Kent. S.E.
Feb 2 1866
I am very much obliged to you for your interesting letter of Jan 11th.1 I was aware that the cells of Bees varied a little in dimensions, but did not in the least know to what a degree the variability extended.2 Your statements make the proposition of some, I think, French savant that the size of the cell shd be the standard of all measurements, quite ludicrous.3 This variability of size agrees well with the view which we both I think take of all instincts.4 Your case of the 2 cells separated by a flat bottom appears to me particularly interesting.5
As so much has been written of late about Bees cells, I cannot but think that your facts wd be well worth publishing in a separate paper: should you intend doing so, I shd be grateful for a copy.6 I had not heard of the fossil tadpole-nests,7 nor of Mr Puttnam’s paper on the cells of humble bees; I wish he had sent me a copy of it.8
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 wasp.9 Mr F. Smith of the Brit. Museum has lately adduced in Proc. of Ent. Soc. of London several cases of hexagonal combs made by single insects, & others with hexagonal cells at the extreme circumference;10 But in the specimens which I have seen, the hexagons were not very perfect at the circumference. I am glad that you have been attending a little to this subject; I formerly found it very interesting but I have not looked over my notes for several years.11
I may add that Prof. Miller carefully measured for me the thickness of the cell-walls & found great variability in their thickness.12 With my best thanks for your kindness in writing
I remain dear Sir yours very faithfully | Ch. Darwin
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.
Please cite as
Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 4994,” accessed on 31 March 2017, http://www.darwinproject.ac.uk/DCP-LETT-4994