RECORD: Smith, K. G. V. 1996. Supplementary notes on Darwin's insects. Archives of natural history 23 (2): 279-286.

REVISION HISTORY: Transcribed (double key) by AEL Data. RN1

NOTE: Reproduced with the permission of Edinburgh University Press.

[page 279]

Archives of Natural History (1996) 23 (2): 279–286

Supplementary notes on Darwin's insects


70 Hollickwood Avenue,
London N12 OLT.

Since the publication of my account of Darwin's insects (Smith, 1987) further specimens have been located by several workers in the collections of various institutions. A few species overlooked by me are also included. These are all reported here as far as possible and assigned to the relevant Darwin numbers and entries as given in Darwin's "Insects in Spirits of Wine" (a short manuscript list in Darwin's hand in the Cambridge University Library) and his "Insect Notes" (in Syms Covington's hand in The Natural History Museum Library) in the style of my previous paper. Throughout The Natural History Museum is referred to as BM(NH).


376. Pulex from hairy underside of Tatusia [=Dasypus, armadillo Pichiy=Pichi—local name, see Darwin, 1845: 95–96] (375) curious vagabond Ricinia. Bahia Blanca. SIPHONAPTERA, Malacopsyllidae: Phthiropsylla agenoris Rothschild. Professor R.L.C. Pilgrim (1992) found one male of this species remounted from the pin labelled "Flea on Dasypus minutus Bahia Blanca N. Patagonia Darwin" in W.S. Macleay's handwriting in the Macleay Museum,1 University of Sydney. The original label was attached to the slide by Ricardo Palma, National Museum of New Zealand. The species is typically found on armadillos in the Neotropical Region (Smith, 1987: 20; Smith, 1987: 43).


325. Numerous single Coleoptera. Hemiptera from Bahia Brazil.

COLEOPTERA, Eumolpidae: Bromiodes squamosus Bryant (1923: 262). The original description includes a single Darwin specimen; thus I refer this here rather than to other Bahia entries (348, 349, 3858–3864). I have examined this specimen in the BM(NH) and it is labelled '3' written in ink upon a white label and has a printed label 'Darwin Coll 1885–119'. This is not a Darwin label. On the original MS of the "Insect Notes" there is a note by G.R. Waterhouse, "Many specimens from this collection were presented by C.O. Waterhouse Reg. No. 85. 119. Some of them bear Nos 1–4, as per label:–1, Sydney 3528; 2, Van Diemen's Land; 3, Bahia; 4, King George's Sound Australia".

1 The Macleay Museum, University of Sydney, contains some 500,000 specimens (Hornung, 1984) mostly collected from 1756 to the mid–1800s. The collection was virtually inaccessible from 1912–1982 but the recent appointment of a curator has made the collection available for study. The Museum was founded by Alexander Macleay (1767–1848), an amateur entomologist who, apart from his own collecting, traded with most of the important entomologists of his day and purchased at auctions. Alexander's eldest son, William S. Macleay (1792–1865) worked for the British Government in Paris where his acquaintances included Cuvier and Latreille. In 1839 he joined his father in Sydney, inherited his collection and built upon it. He was a friend of Lt J.B. Emery of H.M.S. Beagle (third surveying voyage, 1837–43, in command of Captain Lort Stokes) in 1839, also in 1849 T.H. Huxley, assistant–surgeon of H.M.S. Rattlesnake (Fletcher, 1921–1929: 614–5). An excellent account of the third Beagle voyage, including collecting in Australia (without Darwin of course) is provided by Horden (1989).

[page] 280

Bryant notes that this beetle attacks coconut palms, a tree which Darwin mentions as one of those forming part of the "thousand beauties" of the scenery of Bahia in his Journal of Researches (1845: 497).

618. Coleoptera Do. [Rio de Janeiro].

COLEOPTERA, Corylophidae: Corylophodes glabratus Matthews (1887: 109) "Found near Rio de Janeiro". One specimen in BM(NH) labelled "Rio" with "618" on verso. Matthews was apparently unaware that this was a Darwin specimen (and those under 1322 and 3524 below).

1321. 1322. 1323. Coleoptera [Maldonado].

COLEOPTERA, Corylophidae: Sacium alutaceum Matthews (1887: 106). "Found near Maldonado, in South America." One specimen in BM(NH) labelled "Maldonado" with "1322" on the verso.

3524. 3525. 3526. Insects by sweeping Do. [Hobart Town].

COLEOPTERA, Corylophidae: Sericoderus australis Matthews (1887: 108). Found near Hobart Town in Tasmania. One specimen in BM(NH) labelled "Hobart Town" with "3524" on the verso. This species was later synonymized by Matthews (1899: 121)2 with S. fulvicollis Reitter.

Oedomeridae: Ischomena sublineata Waterhouse, (C.O.). One specimen in the BM(NH) collection labelled "Tasmania, Hobart, C. Darwin". The species was described by C.O. Waterhouse (1877, Cistula Entomologica 2: 229 [Sessinia]) but no Darwin material was cited in that paper.

3528. Insects sweeping near Sydney, S. Covington.

COLEOPTERA, Coccinellidae: Scymnus cardinalis Mulsant "1887–42". "3528". This specimen was in the Fiji Sugar Corporation's Collection which was incorporated into the collections of the University of the South Pacific, Fiji. How the specimen came to be there is not known, but it was presumably acquired by exchange. The BM(NH) Accession Number 1887–42 is for "2000 Coleoptera from various localities presented by G.R. Waterhouse Esq. Collected by Charles Darwin in the voyage of the Beagle." Professor R.A. Beaver has very kindly presented the specimen to the BM(NH). Two other Scymnus species (and many other insects) were included for this entry in my previous account (Smith, 1987).

THYSANOPTERA; Phlaeothripidae: Idolothrips spectrum Haliday in Walker (1852) New Holland. No captor given but according to Bagnall (1908: 207) this was a Darwin specimen, and he erected the new genus Acanthinothrips to receive it.

2 Of further interest to entomological historians is a note in the editor's preface to Matthew 1899 "the figures having been transferred to zinc by Mr J. Collin of Newmarket and I have to thank him for the trouble he has taken to make them accurate copies". The Plate A is labelled "J.E. Collin transf" and plates I–VIII are labelled "A. Matthews ad. nat. del. J.E. Collin transf." and all marked West, Newman [sic] imp. J.E. Collin was a famous dipterist (obituary Smith, 1969a; bibliography Smith, Cogan and Pont, 1969) who as a young man illustrated books and papers on Diptera written by his equally eminent dipterist uncle G.H. Verrall. Apparently this aspect of Collin's work was more widely called upon than previously appreciated. An important item omitted from the Collin bibliography and of some interest to historians of evolution is "Note. Drosophila sub obscura sp. n. ♂ ♀, Journal of Genetics 33(1): 60". This 1936 item appears at the end of a paper by C. Gordon and D. melanogaster and D. subobscura and was overlooked. The species described became one of the mostly widely used in genetic speciation studies!

[page] 281

According to Mound and Palmer (1983) the type depository of this species is unknown. Although the specimens were sent to Haliday for description they have not been found in the Haliday Collection in the National Museum of Ireland (Dr J.P. O'Connor, pers. comm.). Incidentally, the puzzle of the word "Fitans" relating to Darwin thrips sent to Haliday by Walker (Smith, 1987: 30) is explained by the late Dr M.W.R. de V. Graham (an expert on Walker) who kindly informed me (pers. comm.) that the word is really "Titans" (Walker was stressing their unusually large size). The largest species are usually tropical (size range of thrips 0.5–ca 15.0 mm, I. spectrum being the latter). Thus, my quote should read "… Thrips (of which there are some Titans half an inch long)".

This entry is interesting in that Darwin's assistant and amanuensis, Syms Covington (the "Insect Notes" are in his hand, see Smith, 1987: 113, note 6), is actually mentioned by name. A revised and enlarged edition of the short biography of Covington (cited in Smith, 1987) is provided by Ferguson (1988).

3561. Small insects sweeping on coarse grass or brushwood. King George's Sound. March [1836].

HEMIPTERA, Delphacidae: Pseudembolophora macleayi Muir (1920: 181). Muir (1934: 575) says "Four specimens somewhat damaged … These specimens were taken by Charles Darwin at King George's Sound, South West Australia (1836). The genus and species were described by Muir (1920) from three specimens in the Macleay Collection, Sydney also taken at King George's Sound."

3688. 3689. 3690. 3691. Small insects sweeping in Valleys of mountains near Simons Bay. [Cape] June.

DIPTERA, Empididae: ?Syneches sp. Two specimens, each labelled "Cape of Good Hope. C. Darwin" (printed), "Darwin Coll. 1885–119" (printed), "3690" (handwritten) in BM(NH). These specimens differ from all species of Syneches included in my monograph of African Empididae (Smith, 1969b) and may prove to be not congeneric. They will be described elsewhere by Dr Bradley Sinclair who kindly drew my attention to them in the Diptera Accessions drawers in the BM(NH).

The following recently located Darwin specimens cannot be assigned to specific numbers or entries.

COLEOPTERA, Anthicidae: Notoxus sp. in the Lyman Entomological Museum. Labelled: "Voyage/of the/Beagle" (handwritten in blackish ink on bluish–green paper); "Ex–Musaeo/Parry" (printed in black and surrounded by a black rectangle on a pale buff label); "Muséum Paris" (printed)/'Col La Ferté" (handwritten in blackish ink on very pale blue nineteenth century Paris Museum label); "Collection of the/Lyman Entomological Museum/and Research Laboratory/Ste–Anne–de–Bellevue/Quebec, Canada" (printed in black on white label).

[page] 282

The genus Notoxus is widespread geographically, so a precise locality or entry cannot be deduced.

The late Professor D.K. McE. Kevan kindly sent this specimen (found by Francois Genier) for examination, but had no idea how it came to be at the Lyman Museum.3

The Parry referred to was certainly Frederick John Sidney Parry (1810–1885), a coleopterist whose collection and library were auctioned by Stevens on 16 May 1885 (Allingham, 1924; Chalmers–Hunt, 1976). According to McLachlan (1885) "At one time he [Parry] had a general collection of Coleoptera but latterly it was limited to Lucanidae and Cetoniidae". This suggests that his general collection of beetles, including Anthicidae, could have been privately dispersed before his death. This may explain how the Anthicidae could have come earlier to La Ferté [Marquis F. Thibault de la Carte de La Ferté–Senectère (1808–1886)] who had published a monograph on the family in 1848. La Ferté's collections mostly went to Paris (Muséum national d'Histoire naturelle) on his death, though the [identified?] Anthicidae supposedly went to Eugene Louis Bouvier (1856–1944). One can only assume that the Darwin specimen, unrecognized as such (and probably unidentified even to family) came to be in Canada by a exchange of material with the Paris Museum.

Two Parry specimens of Hypaulax ampliata Bates (F.) (Tenebrionidae), bearing typical "Voyage of the Beagle" blue labels and like the above without data, were reported on in my previous account (Smith, 1987: 100) (and tentatively referred to King George's Sound), but these came to the BM(NH) via Frederick Bates (B.M. Accession No. 1881–19) (brother of Henry Walter Bates).


A further insect generic Darwin eponym has come to light.

Darwiniphora Schmitz, 1953, Phoridae (part). Die Fliegen der palaearktischen Region (Lieferung 171) (1952) 4, (33): 280. (Diptera, Phoridae). Erected for Conicera duplicata Schmitz 1929. Chile. Not based on Darwin material.

Similarly one more Darwin insect eponym in a specific name has been found.

Polybothris darwini Théry, A., 1912, Annales de la Société Entomologique de Belgique 56: 114. (Coleoptera, Buprestidae). Madagascar. Not based on Darwin material.


Finally, two items of new literature give interpolations of some of Darwin's insect specimens described in other works

A magnificent work by Bouček (1988) includes as assessment and reclassification of the Hymenoptera Chalcidoidea described by Francis Walker (1839) including Darwin material collected in Australia (Sydney, King George's Sound and Tasmania (Hobart)) ("Insect Notes", entries 3524–3528 and 3561). The works of the eccentric systematist Girault who coined several Darwin eponyms (Smith, 1987: 110–111) are

3 The Lyman Entomological Museum contains the largest University insect collection in Canada, only exceeded in size by the National Collection at Ottawa. It was founded in 1914 when Mr H.H. Lyman, a distinguished amateur lepidopterist (with interests in Diptera and Hymenoptera) bequeathed his entomological collections and library to McGill University, with financial provision for its maintenance and expansion. Exchanges with other institutions and individuals throughout the world have been a long–established policy (Vickery and Moore, 1964).

[page] 283

also included in Bouček's treatment (though Girault did not describe from Darwin's material).

Graham (1987) provides precise dates for some of the Haliday plates intended to illustrate Volume 2 of Walker's Monographia Chalciditum (1839) but published in the Entomologist (see below). Unfortunately, the only plate (P) depicting Darwin specimens was not among those specifically treated by Graham, but it can be inferred from his comments to have appeared in issue number 21 of the very rare Volume 1 of The Entomologist (1840–1842), probably in August 1842. Some of these figures had incidentally also been used to adorn the covers of A Bibliography of Irish Entomology (Ryan et al., 1984) as a tribute to A.H. Haliday, Ireland's greatest entomologist. Of these, the two specimens in side view on the lower half of the cover depict Darwin specimens: Thoracantha furcata Walker (upper) and Eucharis iello Walker (lower) (compare with fig. 16, Smith, 1987).

Another recent work (Nicholas and Nicholas, 1989) reproduces some of the historic insect illustrations used in my account (Smith, 1987) with further information on Darwin's collecting during the 62 days he spent in Australia.

As appropriate collections of Darwin's entomological contemporaries are studied in the future (e.g. the Rippon Collection, vide Kirk Spriggs, 1995) further items collected on the Beagle voyage may well come to light; these are most likely to be among unidentified material.

[page] 284


ALLINGHAM, E.G., 1924 A romance of the rostrum. London. Pp 333.

BAGNALL, R.S., 1908 On some new genera and species of Thysanoptera. Transactions of the Natural History Society of Northumberland 3: 183–216.

BOUČEK, Z., 1988 Australasian Chalcidoidea (Hymenoptera, a biosystematic revision of genera of fourteen families, with a reclassification of species. Wallingford. Pp 832.

BRYANT, G.E., 1923 New injurious Phytophaga from India and Brazil. Bulletin of Entomological Research 13(3): 261–265.

CHALMERS–HUNT, J.M., 1976 Natural history auctions 1700–1972. London. Pp xii+189.

DARWIN, C., 1845 Journal of researches into the natural history and geology of the countries visited during the voyage of H.M.S. Beagle round the world. London. Pp viii + 519.

FERGUSSON, B.J., 1988 Syms Covington of Pambula, assistant to Charles Darwin on the voyage of the H.M.S. Beagle 1831–1836. Second edition, revised and enlarged. Merimbula [Australia]. Pp 35.

FLETCHER, J.J., 1921, 1929 The Society's heritage from the Macleays. (part) I. Proceedings of the Linnean Society of New South Wales 45 (1920): 567–635; (part) II. Proceedings of the Linnean Society of New South Wales 54: 185–272.

GRAHAM, M.W.R. de V., 1987 Some early issues of The Entomologist (Vol. 1, 1840–1842) which provide precise dates for Haliday plates of Chalcidoidea (Hym.). Entomologist's Monthly Magazine 123: 185–189.

HORDEN, M., 1989 Mariners be warned! John Lort Stokes and H.M.S. Beagle in Australia, 1837–1843. Melbourne. Pp xxiv+359 [+ 24].

HORNUNG. D.S. Jr., 1984 The Macleay insect collection Antenna 8 (4): 172–175.

KIRK–SPRIGGS, A.H., 1995 Robert Henry Fernando Rippon (ca 1836–1917), naturalist and zoological illustrator. Archives of Natural History 22(1): 97–118.

McLACHLAN, R., 1885 Major F.J. Sidney Parry [obituary]. Entomologist's Monthly Magazine 21 (1884–1885): 240.

MATTHEWS, A., 1887 New genera and species of Corylophidae in the collection of the British Museum. Annals and Magazine of Natural History (5) 19: 105–116.

MATTHEWS, A., 1899 A monograph of the Coleopterous families Corylophidae and Sphaeriidae (edited by Philip B. Mason). London. Pp 220.

MOUND, L.A. and PALMER, J.M., 1983 The generic and tribal classification of spore–feeding Thysanoptera (Phlaeothripidae: Idolothripinae). Bulletin of the British Museum (Natural History) Entomology Series 46(1): 1–174.

MUIR, F., 1920 A new genus of Australian Delphacidae. Proceedings of the Linnean Society of New South Wales 45: 181–182.

MUIR, F., 1934 New and little–known Fulgoroidea (Homoptera). Annals and Magazines of Natural History (10) 14: 561–584.

NICHOLAS, F.W. and NICHOLAS, J.M., 1989 Charles Darwin in Australia, with illustrations and additional commentary from other members of the Beagle's company including Conrad Martens, Augustus Earle, Captain Fitzroy, Philip Gidley King Syms Covington. Cambridge. Pp xiv+175.

PILGRIM, R.L.C., 1992 An historic collection of fleas (Siphonaptera) in the Macleay Museum, Sydney, Australia. Proceedings of the Linnean Society of New South Wales 113(1): 77–86.

RYAN, J.G., O'CONNOR, J.P. and BIERNE, B.P., 1984 A bibliography of Irish entomology. Glenageary (Ireland). Pp 363.

SCHMITZ, H., 1953 Phoridae (part). Die Fliegen der Palaearktischen Region (Lieferung 171) (1952) 4 (33): 273–320.

[page] 285

SMIT, F.G.A.M., 1987 An illustrated catalogue of the Rothschild Collection of fleas (Siphonaptera) in the British Museum (Natural History). vii. Malacopsylloidea (Malacopsyllidae and Rhopalopsyllidae). London. Pp 380.

SMITH, K.G.V., 1969a James Edward Collin, F.R.E.S., 1876–1968 [obituary]. Entomologist's Monthly Magazine 104 (1986): 145–148.

SMITH, K.G.V., 1969b The Empididae of Southern Africa (Diptera). Annals of the Natal Museum 19: 1–342.

SMITH, K.G.V., 1987 Darwin's Insects. Charles Darwin's entomological notes. Bulletin of the British Museum (Natural History) Historical Series 14(1): 1–143.

SMITH, K.G.V., COGAN, B.H. and PONT, A.C., 1969 A bibliography of James Edward Collin (1876–1968). Journal of the Society for the Bibliography of Natural History 5(3): 226–235.

THÉRY, A., 1912 Descriptions de Buprestides nouveaux de Madagascar. Annales de la Société d'entomologique de Belgique 56: 114.

VICKERY, V.R. and MOORE, G.A., 1964 The Lyman Entomological Museum, 1914–1964. Canadian Entomologist 96(12): 1489–1494.

WALKER, F., 1839 Monographia Chalciditum. Vol. 2. Species collected by C. Darwin, Esq., London. London. Pp 100.

WALKER, F., 1852 List of the specimens of homopterous insects in the collection of the British Museum 4: 909–1188. London.

(Accepted 11 August 1995.)

This document has been accessed 2041 times

Return to homepage

Citation: John van Wyhe, editor. 2002-. The Complete Work of Charles Darwin Online. (

File last updated 14 August, 2012