(134/2. Volucella is a fly--one of the Syrphidae--supposed to supply a case of mimicry; this was doubtless the point of interest with Bates. Dr. Sharp says ["Insects," Part II. (in the Camb. Nat. Hist. series), 1899, page 500]: "It was formerly assumed that the Volucella larvae lived on the larvae of the bees, and that the parent flies were providentially endowed with a bee-like appearance that they might obtain entrance into the bees' nests without being detected." Dr. Sharp goes on to say that what little is known on the subject supports the belief that the "presence of the Volucella in the nests is advantageous to both fly and bee.") I had no idea such a case occurred in nature; I must get and see specimens in British Museum. I hope and suppose you will give a good deal of Natural History in your Travels; every one cares about ants--more notice has been taken about slave-ants in the "Origin" than of any other passage.
I fully expect to delight in your Travels. Keep to simple style, as in your excellent letters,--but I beg pardon, I am again advising.
What a capital paper yours will be on mimetic resemblances! You will make quite a new subject of it. I had thought of such cases as a difficulty; and once, when corresponding with Dr. Collingwood, I thought of your explanation; but I drove it from my mind, for I felt that I had not knowledge to judge one way or the other. Dr C., I think, states that the mimetic forms inhabit the same country, but I did not know whether to believe him. What wonderful cases yours seem to be! Could you not give a few woodcuts in your Travels to illustrate this? I am tired with a hard day's work, so no more, except to give my sincere thanks and hearty wishes for the success of your Travels.
LETTER 135. TO J.D. HOOKER. Down, March 18th .
Your letter discusses lots of interesting subjects, and I am very glad you have sent for your letter to Bates. (135/1. Published in Mr. Clodd's memoir of Bates in the "Naturalist on the Amazons," 1892, page l.) What do you mean by "individual plants"? (135/2. In a letter to Mr. Darwin dated March 17th, 1862, Sir J.D. Hooker had discussed a supposed difference between animals and plants, "inasmuch as the individual animal is certainly changed materially by external conditions, the latter (I think) never, except in such a coarse way as stunting or enlarging--e.g. no increase of cold on the spot, or change of individual plant from hot to cold, will induce said individual plant to get more woolly covering; but I suppose a series of cold seasons would bring about such a change in an individual quadruped, just as rowing will harden hands, etc.") I fancied a bud lived only a year, and you could hardly expect any change in that time; but if you call a tree or plant an individual, you have sporting buds. Perhaps you mean that the whole tree does not change. Tulips, in "breaking," change. Fruit seems certainly affected by the stock. I think I have (135/3. See note, Letter 16.) got cases of slight change in alpine plants transplanted. All these subjects have rather gone out of my head owing to orchids, but I shall soon have to enter on them in earnest when I come again to my volume on variation under domestication.
...In the lifetime of an animal you would, I think, find it very difficult to show effects of external condition on animals more than shade and light, good and bad soil, produce on a plant.
You speak of "an inherent tendency to vary wholly independent of physical conditions"! This is a very simple way of putting the case (as Dr. Prosper Lucas also puts it) (135/4. Prosper Lucas, the author of "Traite philosophique et physiologique de l'heredite naturelle dans les etats de sante et de maladie du systeme nerveux": 2 volumes, Paris, 1847-50.): but two great classes of facts make me think that all variability is due to change in the conditions of life: firstly, that there is more variability and more monstrosities (and these graduate into each other) under unnatural domestic conditions than under nature; and, secondly, that changed conditions affect in an especial manner the reproductive organs--those organs which are to produce a new being.