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Darwin Correspondence Project

From H. W. Bates   17 January [1863]1

10 Hollis place | Prince of Wales’ road | N.W.

Jany 17th

My Dear Mr Darwin

Your last has been sent to me here where I have fixed myself for a few weeks to see my book through the press.2 I hope you will put yourself to no further trouble about the article in Linnean trans.   your writing a notice for Nat. Hist. rev. consuming time which is required for your great work, is an act of kindness which I feel most keenly.3 I send today a copy to Prof. Asa Gray.4

With regard to insects frequenting flowers of Melastomads: this order of plants is certainly less visited by bees & Lepidoptera (& all orders) than any other order having flowers.5 With regard to the general fact of neglect of Melastomad flowers there cannot be any doubt as the bushes are excessively numerous in the woods where I collected daily.

Butterflies beetles & bees prefer flowers of Myrtaceæ— there is a sweet-smelling blossom of a tree I supposed to be a myrtle which always swarms with insects when the flowers of adjoining Melastoma bushes have not a single visitor.

Bees Euglossa, Melipona, Cenchris, Megachile, Augochlora in the real virgin forests of the Amazons are more frequently seen at sap exuding from trees,6 at excrement of birds on leaves & on moist sand at edge of water than at flowers. The larger butterflies accompany them; some of these latter crowd on fine flowers of some creeping plant (I think a kind of Combretaceæ). Blossoms of Inga are the favourite resort of some floral beetles (antichira).7

Not having my note books here I cannot give you more details on this subject.

—Mr Murray has ordered so many fine illustrations for my book & these have been (by my residing away from London) so slow in executing that the printing of my book has been much hindered.8

Yours sincerely | H W Bates

CD annotations

1.1 Your … Gray. 1.5] crossed pencil
5.1 Not having … hindered. 6.3] crossed pencil


The year is established by the reference to Bates 1863 (see n. 2, below).
Letter to H. W. Bates, 12 January [1863]. Bates refers to his book The naturalist on the river Amazons (Bates 1863).
In his letter to Bates of 12 January [1863], CD informed him that he had written the review of Bates 1861 that was to appear in the next number of the Natural History Review (‘Review of Bates on mimetic butterflies’).
See letter to H. W. Bates, 12 January [1863] and n. 2. CD had asked Asa Gray if he could find a colleague in the United States to review Bates’s account of mimetic resemblances in Amazonian Lepidoptera (Bates 1861; see Correspondence vol. 10, letters to Asa Gray, 23 November [1862] and 26 November [1862]). Gray himself wrote the review of Bates 1861 that was published in the September 1863 number of the American Journal of Science and Arts (A. Gray 1863a).
See letter to H. W. Bates, 12 January [1863] and n. 4; Bates observed these tropical and sub-tropical plants during his travels in the Amazon region.
Bates lists New World bee genera. ‘Cenchris’ is probably a mistake for Centris.
Antichira was a genus of Coleoptera well represented in Central America. Bates later described the beetles as members of the Lamellicornia tribe and the family Rutelidae (see Bates 1886–90, 2 (pt 2): 265).
John Murray published Bates 1863 in April 1863 (Publishers’ Circular 26: 193). The book included forty-two illustrations.


Bates, Henry Walter. 1861. Contributions to an insect fauna of the Amazon valley. Lepidoptera: Heliconidæ. [Read 21 November 1861.] Transactions of the Linnean Society of London 23 (1860–2): 495–566.

Bates, Henry Walter. 1863. The naturalist on the River Amazons. A record of adventures, habits of animals, sketches of Brazilian and Indian life, and aspects of nature under the equator, during eleven years of travel. 2 vols. London: John Murray.

Bates, Henry Walter. 1886–90. Pectinicornia and Lamellicornia. Vol. 2, pt 2 of Biologia Centrali-Americana. Insecta. Coleoptera, edited by Frederick Du Cane Godman and Osbert Salvin. London: R. H. Porter; Dulau & Co.

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

‘Review of Bates on mimetic butterflies’: [Review of "Contributions to an insect fauna of the Amazon valley", by Henry Walter Bates.] [By Charles Darwin.] Natural History Review n.s. 3 (1863): 219–24. [Collected papers 2: 87–92.]


Has sent copy of his paper to Asa Gray.

Melastomad flowers are strikingly neglected by pollinators.

Murray has ordered many illustrations for HWB’s Naturalist on the river Amazons.

Letter details

Letter no.
Henry Walter Bates
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
London, Hollis Place, 10
Source of text
DAR 205.8: 67 (Letters)
Physical description
3pp †

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 3925,” accessed on 7 December 2021,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 11