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Darwin Correspondence Project

To W. B. Tegetmeier   30 July [1860]

Down | Bromley, Kent [Hartfield]1

July 30th

My dear Sir

One line to thank you for your information on Pigeon-Hatching & on Drones.—2 Your case is much to the point. I believe, as many believe, that an occasional cross is almost indispensable;3 Mr Westwood in G. Chronicle threw in my teeth Hive-Bees, & assumed that with them there was no intercrossing, but perpetual intermarrying.4

With many thanks | My dear Sir | Yours sincerely | C. Darwin

My daughter still keeps very ill, but improves a little.—


CD was in Hartfield, Sussex, until 2 August 1860 (‘Journal’; Appendix II).
In his paper on crossing among bees, Tegetmeier described the way in which drones (fertile male bees) could move from hive to hive without being attacked. He believed that the bees of any one hive probably included a number of ‘foreign’ drones, thereby facilitating some cross-breeding between different stocks. This finding contradicted the popular belief that queen bees only mated with the drones of their own hive. See Tegetmeier 1860. CD cited Tegetmeier’s information in Variation 2: 126.
CD refers to two letters written by John Obadiah Westwood to the Gardeners’ Chronicle in 1860. The first, published in the Gardeners’ Chronicle and Agricultural Gazette, 14 January 1860, p. 26, addressed the question of the ‘doubtful permanence of cross-breeds’. Westwood there alluded to the fact that CD’s theory appeared to be refuted by the hive-bees, in which, he stated, ‘no crossing is necessary, even if but a single hive were to be kept from year to year.’ CD responded to this point in his letter to the Gardeners’ Chronicle, [before 21 January 1860]. Westwood wrote again (Gardeners’ Chronicle and Agricultural Gazette, 11 February 1860, p. 122), reiterating the point that: ‘Extensive bee-keepers do not find it necessary to import hives from a distance to keep up their establishments, and thus the species would keep true, immaterial whether the queens paired with their own subjects or with those of adjacent hives.’ CD was attempting to gather further information on the crossing of hive-bees from Tegetmeier and others in order to dispute Westwood’s claim (see letters to W. B. Tegetmeier, 17 April [1860], and to Cottage Gardener, [before 8 May 1860]).


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.


Thanks for information on pigeon hatching

and on drones.

Believes occasional crosses indispensable.

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. 2883,” accessed on 15 May 2021,

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