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Darwin Correspondence Project

From Hermann Müller   4 October 1876


Oct. 4. 1876.

My dear Sir

Many thanks for your kind letter of Sept 9. and for the cheque of £7·8 S. for my brother, which I received just now.1

I have many times looked at the male humble bees, but I have never succeeded in observing something like the regular traveling in certain pathways as observed by you.2 But it is to be remarked that the environs of Lippstadt are by no means abounding with humble-bees and therefore little favorable for these observations

In my last letter I have made a statement, regarding the habits of Bombus terrestris, which is to be corrected. As in the meantime I have seen from my notes, B. terrestris also in the Alps forcibly breaks open some flowers in order to gain their honey, for instance those of Silene inflata3

Your book on the Effects of Cross and Self-Fertilisation will be of the highest interest to me.4 It will stop, I hope, such publications as those of Pedicino and Comes of Naples and of Mr. Meehan of Philadelphia.5

As to Trifolium pratense I will remember during next summer what you mentioned about the bees searching for something between the flowers6

Yours | very sincerely | H Müller.


CD’s letter has not been found. The cheque may have been from John Murray for sales of the English translation of Fritz Müller’s Für Darwin (Fritz Müller 1864, Dallas trans. 1869; see Correspondence vol. 23, letter from Hermann Müller, 23 October 1875 and n. 1).
On CD’s research on the routes of humble-bees, see Freeman 1968.
On the feeding habits of Bombus terrestris, the buff-tailed bumble-bee, see the letter from Hermann Müller, 4 September 1876; see also letter from Hermann Müller, 16 February 1876 and n. 2. Silene inflata is now Silene vulgaris, bladder campion.
Müller’s name appears on CD’s presentation list for Cross and self fertilisation (see Appendix III).
Müller had criticised recent work on self- and cross-fertilization by Nicola Antonio Pedicino (Pedicino 1875), Orazio Comes (Comes 1875), and Thomas Meehan (Meehan 1875). See Correspondence vol. 23, letter from Hermann Müller, 23 October 1875; see also ibid., letter to Thomas Meehan, 3 October 1875.
In Cross and self fertilisation, p. 361, CD remarked that hive-bees sucked between the flowers of Trifolium pratense (red clover) ‘as if in search of some secretion from the calyx’.


Comes, Orazio. 1875. Continuazione degli studii sulla impollinazione. Rendiconto dell’Accademia delle Scienze Fisiche e Matematiche 14: 64–71.

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.

Freeman, Richard Broke. 1968. Charles Darwin on the routes of male humble bees. Bulletin of the British Museum (Natural History) Historical Series 3 (1962–9): 177–89.

Meehan, Thomas. 1875. Are insects any material aid to plants in fertilization? Proceedings of the American Association for the Advancement of Science 24: 243–51.

Pedicino, Nicola Antonio. 1875. Della impollinazione nella Thalia dealbata, Fraso, e del modo di ricercare sperimentalmente i processi di impollinazione. Rendiconto dell’Accademia delle Scienze Fisiche e Matematiche 14: 25–7.


He has never observed the straight line flight routes in male humble-bees that CD reports.

His last letter was in error: alpine Bombus terrestris does break into some flowers.

Letter details

Letter no.
Heinrich Ludwig Hermann (Hermann) Müller
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 171: 307
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 10631,” accessed on 14 May 2021,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 24