RECORD: Darwin, C. R. Last sketch [on bees' cells]. CUL-DAR48.B66 Transcribed by Kees Rookmaaker, edited by John van Wyhe. (Darwin Online,

REVISION HISTORY: Transcribed by Kees Rookmaaker, edited by John van Wyhe. 2.2014 RN1

NOTE: Reproduced with the permission of the Syndics of Cambridge University Library and William Huxley Darwin.

Darwin was working on this document shortly before he received Wallace's famous letter from Ternate in June 1858. Darwin mentioned working on "Bees cells" in his Journal, 36v, for April 1858. Darwin published his views on bee's cells in Origin of species, pp. 224-235.

This item is continued as CUL-DAR48.B67-B74

66 recto


Last Sketch

The above facts showing gradation, wd perhaps suffice for the work. But As of all construction Instinct that of the Hive-Bee is by far the most perfect & wonderful, it may be worth while briefly to inter discuss the theory of the formation of the cells. In doing this I have been largely guided by Mr Waterhouse views theory of which under the following theory remarks is only a slight modification*. The most important fact in guiding me to understand how a Bee could possibly construct all the beautiful The fundamental idea is that the Bees [illeg] commence their work at a certain distance, from each other & this is not directly noticed by Mr. W. secondly so That the Bees instinct follows & wasps power of constructing its cells follows from some simple instinctive power might, I think have been anticipated a priori, from the [illeg] how it could measure & make all the wondrous angles, or indeed perceive them when they were correctly made. The most important guiding fact is that clearly shown by Dr Huber in the case of the Melipona, mainly that when in making these spherical cells the Bee constructs them so near, that if completed, they wd intersect
Can work in a plane or layer.—


66 verso

each other; & that they unite to point of intersection with flat & intermedial plane surface — Confirmed by Icaria & Waterhouse Hornet & Tegetmeier Bee Cell cylinder & round cell.— Bees [illeg] comb. when [illeg] creation of cells. How effected no doubt difficult to indicate

The second contention that they can make a true cylinder or sphere by turning round; several of foregoing facts show this yet other cases, as Icaria in B. hive with cylindrical tubes.

Thirdly several work together, or alternately. that cells is never completed, a mere rudiment under when other adjoining cells are either by other insects or same one
Fourthly can judge of distance to certain extent. (combs in Hive)

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First looking to simple case of wasp cells
Now it occurred to me that supposing that these insect cd judge accurately of distance, & cd make true cylinder, as Icaria can make; then hexagon wd result

After giving theory of single layers in wasp & double in Bees.— then state motive of such perfection economy of wax.— Then discuss different others how judge of distance & of size of cells.— Draw cells Female wasps [illeg] cells — Bent comb, were these hexagons?

Icaria case & hexagonal comb Sum up what assumes

Is Hexagon if being Wasp cells level, as base of rhombic dodecahedron

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

File last updated 7 March, 2014