skip to content

Darwin Correspondence Project

To Cottage Gardener   [after 8 May 1860]1


– “A Devonshire Bee-keeper” states (page 94) that he caught

a common drone entering one of his hives of the pure Ligurian stock.2 Will he have the kindness to state at what distance in a straight line there are hives of the common bee? I believe it is not known how far the drones commonly wander from their own hive. Andrew Knight believed, as stated in the “Philosophical Transactions,” that the queen was seldom fertilised by her own blood-relations, the drones of her own hive.3 Does “A Devonshire Bee-keeper,” who seems to be so conversant with the habits of bees, believe in this doctrine of Andrew Knight?— 4

C. D.


The letter is a reply to a note published on 8 May 1860 in the Cottage Gardener 24 (1860): 94. CD’s letter appeared in the issue of 29 May. There is an undated draft of this letter in the Fitzwilliam Museum library, Cambridge.
The article, signed ‘A Devonshire bee-keeper’, was published in the Cottage Gardener on 8 May 1860 (see n. 1, above). The author stated that two out of his four Ligurian queens appeared to be hybrids and that he had seen an ordinary drone entering the hive of his Ligurian bees.
In a reply, dated 24 May, that immediately followed CD’s query, ‘the Devonshire bee-keeper’ reported that he now believed the ‘unwelcome stranger’ to have been a ‘small hybrid drone’ rather than ‘a straggler from some other colony.’ On other evidence, he inferred that drones extended their flight to a greater distance than was generally imagined. Nevertheless, he believed that females were ‘very generally fertilised by the offspring of the same mother’ (Cottage Gardener 24 (1860): 143).


Knight, Thomas Andrew. 1828. On some circumstances relating to the economy of bees. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London pt 2: 319–23. [vols. 5,8]


Inquires whether "a Devonshire Bee-keeper" [T. W. Woodbury] who reported a common drone entering a hive of Ligurian bees [Cottage Gard. 24 (1860): 94] believes, with Andrew Knight, that queen bees are seldom fertilised by their own blood-relations. Asks how far a hive of common bees was from that of the Ligurians.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Cottage Gardener
Sent from
Source of text
Cottage Gardener 24 (1860): 143
Physical description
Printed & AdraftS 1p

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 2777,” accessed on 28 May 2020,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 8