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Darwin Correspondence Project

From Charles Hardy1   23 July 1860

Hayling Vicarage | Havant

23 July 1860.


I venture to mention to you in connexion with a remark made by you at p. 73 of your “Origin of Species” that “humble bees alone visit the red clover (Trifolium pratense) as other bees cannot reach the nectar”—that I was at Bury near Arundel last year in the months of July August & September. There was a field of red clover at the back of the house which was always frequented by myriads of bees.2 Speaking moderately I think a single dash of the net in any part of the field would have taken fifty of them. I called the attention of my children to the fact as contradicting what I told them was a popular error—which circumstance they perfectly recollect. I have repeatedly observed the same thing at other times & in other places.

I ought to say that the clover in question was a second growth (& I believe that it is from the second growth exclusively that the seed is saved) & that the flowers are somewhat smaller than those produced by a first growth. I have never particularly observed whether the latter are equally frequented by bees. If my life is spared for another year I will endeavour to ascertain that point.

I remain Sir | faithfully yours | Charles Hardy.

C. Darwin Esqre.

CD annotations

Top of letter: ‘For Origin | goodink; ‘Ch. 3’3 brown crayon


Hardy was vicar of North and South Hayling, Hampshire.
Hardy apparently means that he saw hive-bees sucking at the clover. In Origin, pp. 94–5, CD stated that hive-bees could not reach into the corolla of the red clover, whereas humble-bees could.
See following letter. CD’s annotation ‘Ch. 3’ refers to the third chapter, ‘On the possibility of all organic beings crossing’, of his ‘big book’ on species (see Natural selection, pp. 56, 68).


Natural selection: Charles Darwin’s Natural selection: being the second part of his big species book written from 1856 to 1858. Edited by R. C. Stauffer. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 1975.

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.


CD mistaken, in Origin, p. 73, in saying that only humble-bees visit red clover.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Hardy
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 76 (ser. 2): 170
Physical description
2pp †

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 2877,” accessed on 13 June 2021,

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