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Darwin Correspondence Project

From William Ogle   [23–4 September 1875]1

Oxford and Cambridge Club

the passage in which A. states this, I am inclined, though not certain, to believe his statement to be correct. Supposing bees or other insects to have such a habit, its utility is of course apparent, since your works on fertilisation of flowers.2 I should very much like to know whether bees or other insects do so limit themselves, and whether the fact has been observed either by yourself or by any other Naturalist.

Of what advantage would such a habit be to the insects themselves?

I trust you have recovered from the fatigue of your last work; which I read with great delight; though unfortunately with the help of very unhealthy specimens of Drosera, with which London air did not seem to agree.3

Believe me | Yrs. very sincerely | W. Ogle.

P.S. | In Latin Renuo, and Annuo answer to ἀνανεύειν and κατανεύειν.4

CD annotations

1.1 the passage … Naturalist. 1.5] crossed blue crayon
3.1 I trust … [G[katanéuein]] 5.2] crossed blue crayon
End of letter: ‘Dr Ogle says that Aristotle observes that Bees on any single journey from the hive limit their visits to a single kind of flower   The bee for works for a time, that is as long as it can find flowers of the same sp. on the principle that an if [above del ‘man can engine’] a man [‘by habit can make’ del] had to make 6 [above del ‘several’] engines, he wd complete the work quicker, if he made [‘[illeg] 6’ del] 6 of the wheels of each kind one after the other. habit above consists of an [above del ‘are complex’] apparatus consisting of several parts’ ink


The date is established by the relationship between this letter and the letters to William Ogle, 22 September 1875 and 25 September 1875.
In this incomplete passage, Ogle was evidently writing about bees’ habit of returning repeatedly to flowers of the same species; see CD’s annotation to this letter, and CD’s letter to Ogle of 25 September 1875. Aristotle made his observation in his History of animals 624b. CD mentioned Aristotle’s observation in Cross and self fertilisation, pp. 415–16.
CD discussed Drosera (sundew) in the first part of his Insectivorous plants.
On Greek words for the upward, negative, nod (renuo) and the downward nod of agreement (annuo), see also Correspondence vol. 22, letter from Chauncey Wright, 3 September 1874. For CD’s comments on gestures of affirmation and negation in various cultures, see Expression, pp. 273–7.


Correspondence: The correspondence of Charles Darwin. Edited by Frederick Burkhardt et al. 27 vols to date. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 1985–.

Cross and self fertilisation: The effects of cross and self fertilisation in the vegetable kingdom. By Charles Darwin. London: John Murray. 1876.

Expression: The expression of the emotions in man and animals. By Charles Darwin. London: John Murray. 1872.

Insectivorous plants. By Charles Darwin. London: John Murray. 1875.


Asks whether CD has observed that bees limit their visits to a single kind of flower on each journey from the hive, as Aristotle has said they do. What advantage would such a limitation be to the insects?

Letter details

Letter no.
William Ogle
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Oxford and Cambridge Club
Source of text
DAR 46.2: C63–4
Physical description
4pp inc †

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 10167,” accessed on 21 September 2020,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 23