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Darwin Correspondence Project

To Anthelme Thozet   22 August 1875

Dear Sir,–

I am much obliged to you for your articles on moths sucking oranges, on account of statements made by me that moths penetrate and suck the nectaries of orchids which never secrete nectar.1

I have stated, on the authority of Mr. Trimen (in Annals and Mag. of Nat. History, September, 1869) that in South Africa “moths and butterfiles do much injury to peaches and plums by penetrating the skin in parts which have not been in the least broken.”2 I presume that your entomological opponent will allow that Mr. R. Trimen, the author of a grand work on the Lepidoptera of South Africa, is a competent witness.3 Yours faithfully, Chas. Darwin.

Down, Beckenham, Kent, August 22, 1875.


CD had made the statements about moths penetrating the nectaries of orchids in Orchids, pp. 50–1. The articles sent by Thozet have not been found in the Darwin Archive–CUL, but were most likely newspaper articles by Thozet writing under the pseudonym ‘Pomona’, including one titled ‘The orange-destroying moth’, published in the Rockhampton Bulletin, 4 May 1875, p. 3. A similar letter to the editor from ‘Pomona’ appeared in the Capricornian (Rockhampton), 8 May 1875, p. 294. See also n. 3, below. CD’s son Francis Darwin published an article on the structure of the proboscis of the moth Ophideres fullonica (a synonym of Eudocima phalonia, the Pacific fruit-piercing moth), based on specimens sent by Thozet to CD (F. Darwin 1875).
Roland Trimen. CD made the comment in the Annals and Magazine of Natural History (‘Fertilization of orchids’, p. 143).
Trimen had written a catalogue of South African butterflies (Trimen 1862–6). Thozet’s entomological opponent was William Henry Miskin, who disputed Thozet’s claim in an article, ‘Insect enemies of the orange’, published in the Queenslander, 22 May 1875, p. 5. Thozet, writing as ‘Pomona’, replied to Miskin’s article in a letter to the Rockhampton Bulletin, 11 June 1875, p. 3.


Darwin, Francis. 1875b. On the structure of the proboscis of Ophideres fullonica, an orange-sucking moth. Quarterly Journal of Microscopical Science n.s. 15: 384–9.

‘Fertilization of orchids’: Notes on the fertilization of orchids. By Charles Darwin. Annals and Magazine of Natural History 4th ser. 4 (1869): 141–59. [Collected papers 2: 138–56.]

Orchids: On the various contrivances by which British and foreign orchids are fertilised by insects, and on the good effects of intercrossing. By Charles Darwin. London: John Murray. 1862.

Trimen, Roland. 1862–6. Rhopalocera Africæ Australis; a catalogue of South African butterflies, comprising descriptions of all the known species with notices of their larvæ, pupæ, localities, habits, seasons of appearance, and geographical distribution. London: Trübner. Cape Town, South Africa: W. F. Mathew.


Thanks for articles about moths sucking oranges.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Anthelme (Pomona) Thozet
Sent from
Source of text
Rockhampton Bulletin, 6 November 1875, p. 2

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 10132F,” accessed on 21 September 2023,