RECORD: Darwin, C. R. 1861. Is the female bombus fertilised in the air? Journal of Horticulture and Cottage Gardener (22 October): 76.

REVISION HISTORY: Transcribed and edited by John van Wyhe 2003-8. RN2

[page] 76


WOULD Col. Newman,1 who has so carefully attended to the habits of humble bees, have the kindness to state whether the queen humble bees are fertilised in the air or on the ground? I have a special reason for wishing to know this little fact, and whether the fertilisation does not often take place as late as in September?—C. DARWIN.

1 Henry Wenman Newman (1788-1865), army officer and landowner. The editors of the Correspondence vol. 9, p. 311 state 'CD's query was probably prompted by a note by Henry Wenman Newman published in the 15 October 1861 issue of the Journal of Horticulture (pp. 40-1), in which Newman questioned whether parthenogenesis occurred in bees and suggested that the eggs of the queen bee were fertilised by the 'aura' of the drone.' Newman's response (not fully transcribed here but available in the image view) followed Darwin's letter: 'The queens or females of the humble bees are not fertilised in the air, and the act of fertilisation takes place either in the nest or on some flower, or on the ground.'

[page] 77

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

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