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Darwin Correspondence Project

To A. B. Buckley   16 August [1880]1


Aug. 16th

My dear Miss Buckley

It is an entire blunder of Mr Packard. I have described briefly in Origin the slave making process, as seen by myself.—2 I have, however, remarked (speaking from memory) that apparently F. sanguinea does not attend so much to Aphides in England as on the continent.—3

My dear Miss Buckley | Yours sincerely | Ch. Darwin


The year is established by the address; CD stayed in Cambridge with Horace and Ida Darwin from 14 to 19 August 1880 (CD’s ‘Journal’ (Appendix II)).
Buckley’s letter to CD has not been found. CD had discussed the slave-making instincts of Formica sanguinea and F. rufescens in Origin 6th ed., pp. 216–20; from his observations of F. sanguinea, he concluded that the species was less dependent on its slaves (F. fusca) than was F. rufescens, noting that in England F. sanguinea collected building materials and food for themselves. Alpheus Spring Packard Jr wrote: ‘Darwin states that in England, F. sanguinea does not enslave other species’ (Packard 1880, p. 183).
In Origin 6th ed., p. 219, CD remarked: in Switzerland the slaves and masters work together, making and bringing materials for the nest: both, but chiefly the slaves, tend, and milk as it may be called, their aphides; and thus both collect food for the community. In England the masters alone usually leave the nest to collect building materials and food for themselves, their slaves and larvæ. Buckley referred to CD’s description of slave-making ants in Life and her children (Buckley 1880, pp. 291–2); she also described ants protecting aphids and feeding on their secretions (ibid., p. 278).


Buckley, Arabella Burton. 1880. Life and her children: glimpses of animal life from the amoeba to the insects. London: E. Stanford.

Origin 6th ed.: The origin of species by means of natural selection, or the preservation of favoured races in the struggle for life. 6th edition, with additions and corrections. By Charles Darwin. London: John Murray. 1872.

Packard, Alpheus Spring, Jr. 1880b. Guide to the study of insects. 7th edition. New York: Henry Holt and Company.


Believes A. S. Packard is in error on some points. Refers to his own observations on slave-making ants in Origin.

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 12689,” accessed on 2 March 2024,