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The celebratory cake madeIn Mr Tegetmeier’s own words, ‘An enormous crowd
by Liz Jacksgathered in Wellington Street, the boys pelted the bees with
any missiles the road afforded and the thoroughfare was
well nigh blocked. The ladies of the corps de ballet could
not get into the theatre and the stage manager came and
implored my assistance to dislodge the insects and give his
performers access. I did so at considerable risk, since those
who held the ladder were afraid of the bees’.
He secured the swarm with a cheese box, a table cloth and
a small brush borrowed from the Gaiety Restaurant. He took Very soon afterwards, on 16 November 1855, Darwin visited
the swarm home to Muswell Hill. Mr Tegetmeier in his cottage in Wood Green to see his
collection of skeletons and skulls. He went home to DowneHis book on Bees, Hives and Honey was published in 1860
with a number of specimens to study in detail. It waswhen he was the secretary of the Muswell Hill Society of
another three years before Charles Darwin discovered thatBeekeepers, which was looked upon as one of the foremost
William Tegetmeier was also an experienced beekeeper and beekeeping authorities in England at the time.
could help with bees as well as pigeons.
In his garden in Wood Green he erected a shed where he In 1858 Charles Darwin was preparing the manuscript for
kept his beehives with their entrances corresponding with his famous book The Origin of Species and, as he said in
holes in the side of the shed so that he could carry out letters to friends, ‘for the past 20 years I have been
observations with less disturbance to the bees. This was struggling with how bees constructed the beautiful wax
probably the earliest example of a bee house in England. In honeycomb’. It was fortunate that he discovered through
1858 he moved to Muswell Hill to more suitable premises the April meeting of the Entomological Society of London
where The Apiarian Society of London erected an that Mr Tegetmeier was working on how honey bees
experimental bee house ‘for exhibiting the working of constructed their hexagonal wax cells.
scientific and improved hives'.
Mr Tegetmeier designed and carried out a series ofWAX PRODUCTION
experiments which were described in his paper read before
the British Association for the Advancement of Science inMr Tegetmeier’s observations on honey bees noted that
Leeds in October 1858. Charles Darwin repeated thethey require 12–15 lb (5.4–6.8 kg) of dry sugar to enable
experiments and these are also described in The Origin ofthem to secrete a pound of wax. He studied swarming and
Species, published in November 1859. The friendship andfound that when a swarm took possession of an old hive,
mutual respect these two scientists share is illustrated bythe colony sent in a working party to clear out any rubbish
Charles Darwin giving full credit with the words: ‘Followingand do some repairs of any old comb found there. He also
the example of Mr Tegetmeier,’ included in The Origin ofdiscovered that bees will resist worker bees from another
Species, and Mr Tegetmeier’s words in his earlier paper:hive entering but allow free access to drones.
‘experiments repeated by Mr Darwin with many ingenious
PHILOPERISTERON SOCIETY modifications with similar results’.
Mr Tegetmeier became the secretary of the Philoperisteron Charles Darwin repeated the experiments in a hive he
Society, an exclusive pigeon club, and it was at one of their purchased from Mr Tegetmeier. This was a time when there
shows that he met Charles Darwin. Mr Tegetmeier’s friend was much innovation in beekeeping and Tegetmeier was
Mr Walter Yarrell, a well known ornithologist and the author ready to improve on traditional practice. He designed a new
of the History of British Birds, introduced Mr Tegetmeier to hive which he described in The Cottage Gardener and
Mr Darwin with the words ‘Oh, here’s Tegetmeier; he will Country Gentleman.
tell you about these birds better than I can’. In his biography, A Victorian Naturalist Being the Life and
Work of WB Tegetmeier, Mr EA Richardson, who was
married to Mr Tegetmeier’s daughter Sarah, says that during
his lifetime, ‘Mr Tegetmeier was well known as an expert on
pigeons and poultry but only his closest friends thought of
him as a beekeeper. But from a scientific point of view,
beekeeping was the most important and it was of his work
with bees that Mr Tegetmeier himself was most proud. HisThe commemorative
friendship with Charles Darwin started through his workplaque on Tegetmeier's
house in Haringey with pigeons and poultry’ but, as Mr Robinson writes, ‘it
(photos: John Williams) was his knowledge of bees that cemented it’.
Page 8 Bee Craft Digital November 2008
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