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Darwin Correspondence Project

To W. B. Tegetmeier   20 July [1860]

Down Bromley Kent [Hartfield]

July 20th

My dear Sir

I am sure that you have no cause to apologise to me; but rather I to you for so often plaguing you with questions.—   I did not ask about young pigeon-down; but I am especially glad of this additional information, which I will give on your authority.1 What I asked about was whether you had any facts leading you to believe that it was any advantage with Hive-Bees to cross the breed, when the same stock has been long kept by same person in same place.2 But do not think of troubling yourself to answer.3 I am sorry that I did not bring in your name more clearly about the Bees-cells; but my volume was merely an abstract, & I quote no one in detail.4 If I live I hope to do more justice to all whom I quote.

Very sincere thanks for your kind offer of Poultry skulls, which I will most gladly avail myself of;5 but I am making very slow progress in my larger work, chiefly owing to a terribly long illness of my eldest daughter & my own poor health; so that I shall not attack poultry for some time.—6 I have seen notices of your most curious observations on the eggs of the Worker-Bees.—7 I am sorry to say that I am entirely ignorant with respect to the native country of the Italian Alp-Bee.—8

Pray believe me, My dear Sir, with thanks for all your kindness. | Yours very sincerely | C. Darwin

P.S. I have just remembered, what my other question was, namely whether it would be possible to procure for me trustworthy information, whether the duration of incubation is exactly the same in breeds of Pigeons so different as short-faced Tumblers, Runts, Carriers, or Pouters. Any fact on this head would be very valuable.—9


Tegetmeier had supplied CD with information about pigeon-down a few months earlier. See letter to W. B. Tegetmeier, 8 May [1860]. CD cited Tegetmeier’s observations in Variation 1: 170.
See letters to W. B. Tegetmeier, 17 April [1860], and to Cottage Gardener, [after 8 May 1860].
Tegetmeier investigated the topic suggested by CD. On 8 August 1860, he presented a short paper entitled ‘Natural cross breeding in bees’ at a meeting of the Entomological Society (Tegetmeier 1860). See also letter to W. B. Tegetmeier, 30 July [1860].
Tegetmeier assisted CD in his study of the construction of bees’ cells (see Correspondence vol. 7). Tegetmeier was cited twice in the discussions of this subject in Origin, pp. 228 and 233.
CD recorded in his ‘Journal’ in 1861: ‘May 16. Finished Fowls (8 weeks)’ (see de Beer ed. 1959).
At a meeting of the Entomological Society on 4 June 1860, Tegetmeier exhibited specimens of fertile workers of the honey-bee Apis mellifica that had come from a hive lacking a queen. He believed this disproved Jean Pierre Huber’s statement that such workers were only produced if they had fed on royal jelly reserved for the queen (Transactions of the Entomological Society of London n.s. 5 (1858–61), Proceedings, p. 118). A notice of this paper was also published in the Gardeners’ Chronicle and Agricultural Gazette, 14 July 1860, p. 650.
According to a notice in the Gardeners’ Chronicle and Agricultural Gazette, 5 May 1860, p. 411, the ‘newspapers have lately been much occupied by discussions respecting a new sort of bee which apiarians have discovered to be domesticated in the Swiss Alps, which entomologists call Apis helvetica or Apis ligustica, and which also bears the name of the Ligurian Bee.’ The bee was also sometimes called the Italian Alp-bee. Tegetmeier’s inquiry was related to his attempt to obtain a stock of these bees. In a letter to the Gardeners’ Chronicle, 11 August 1860, pp. 734–5, Tegetmeier stated that he had ‘after many discouragements, succeeded in obtaining a thriving and populous stock of Ligurian bees’ and would be pleased to show them to any bee-keeper. He exhibited specimens of these bees at the Entomological Society on 8 August 1860 (see n. 3, above).


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

Origin: On the origin of species by means of natural selection, or the preservation of favoured races in the struggle for life. By Charles Darwin. London: John Murray. 1859.

Tegetmeier, William Bernhard. 1860. Natural cross breeding in bees. Transactions of the Entomological Society of London n.s. 5 (1858–61): Proceedings, p. 126.

Variation: The variation of animals and plants under domestication. By Charles Darwin. 2 vols. London: John Murray. 1868.


Asks whether crossing breeds of hive-bees is advantageous

and whether different pigeon breeds have different incubation periods.

Explains and apologises for the lack of detailed quotations in Origin.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
William Bernhard Tegetmeier
Sent from
Hartfield Down letterhead
Source of text
Archives of the New York Botanical Garden (Charles Finney Cox Collection)
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 2872,” accessed on 23 January 2021,

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