Dornach, December 5, 1923.
ERBSMEHL remarked that in modern bee-keeping the
bee-master is primarily concerned with making a profit: it is the
material side that has to be considered. In the
“Bienenzeitung” (No. 10) it says: —
“Honey is for the most part a luxury, and those who can afford
to buy it can well pay a good price for it.” An instance is
then given of how a certain Balmesberger who was travelling in Spain,
found a number of very healthy children in a bee-keeper's house, and
how in answer to the question where he sold his honey, he replied:
“Here are my customers.” Here in Middle Europe we want to
get as much profit as possible from our honey. An employer of many
workmen must see that he gets as much as possible out of them, and
the same also applies to the bees.
In the eleventh
number, the further question is asked as to whether there was any truth in
the matter when people thought that moonlight had an influence on the
production of honey or nectar in the flowers.
1. That Herr
Erbsmehl can gather from the Journal that the bee-keeper in question was
only working on a small scale, and did not sell his honey. Erbsmehl is
evidently not aware what bee-keeping is in our days, and all the
things connected with it so that one is obliged to keep accounts. If
one does not reckon on making a profit out of it, as with other
matters, one might just as well give it up.
never be available in the necessary quantities if one did not have recourse
to artificial methods. One gets perhaps 4–8 pounds of honey and
may need rather more than this to keep the stock in good condition.
Then a bad year comes and one has not enough to last till April or
May. One must help the stock that has sufficient vitality by
artificial feeding — with sugar, camomile tea, thyme and a
small seasoning of salt.
Then the hours
which the bee-keeper spends in working are noted down quite exactly in a
modern apiary — how much time the bee-keeper has given to it and so
on. Let us say five and a half hours; — (the hour is reckoned
at the rate of one franc or one franc, fifty) — thus a pound of
honey costs seven francs. Then one must reckon with wear and tear;
the combs get used up, and one must replace them. The whole
enterprise should surely make a profit. But if the bee-keeper remains
at the old standpoint, he does not get along. Herr Erbsmehl may
be able to do so, but if I have a large stock, then I must reckon up
and say to myself — I have already made a loss if I sell my
honey at six francs. The American bee-keepers take exactly this
2. I myself,
cannot understand that within the next eighty to a hundred years the
whole stock of bees will die out. I really cannot understand what Dr.
Steiner means by saying that within eighty to a hundred years
bee-keeping will be endangered.
3. As to the
second point — i.e., what announcing the death of the bee-master
to the bees has to do with the bee-master, I have already stated that
the greater part of the stock dies after the death of the person in
charge. How it came about, I am quite unable to understand.
4. With regard
to impure honey in hotels I would like to say that first-class hotels
frequently buy American honey. When bees are fed oil this honey, they
die — and yet it is produced by bees.
5. As to
stinging, sweat is the very worst thing; when you hear shrill buzzing
sounds, it is advisable to stand still.
6. As to the
question how far can a bee sting affect a man, I know of a case which I
should like to mention. A strong man was stung by a bee. He cried out:
“Hold me, I have been stung!” He was extremely sensitive
to it. He was a man with slight heart trouble. Perhaps Dr. Steiner
will tell us to what extent a bee-sting may be really dangerous.
it is said that three hornet stings will kill a horse. A little while ago
I found a hornets' nest in my bee-house. I was taking away the brood.
The hornets were such cowards they did not sting me in the dark;
perhaps they might have done so out of doors.
Let us go back
to the recognition by the bees of their bee-master. I should like to add a
few remarks that we may discuss these matters in a reasonable way.
You have formed
an opinion that is naturally completely justified if you consider the thing
intellectually. But now I should like to tell you this: imagine you
have a friend, you came to know him, let us say, in the year 1915.
This friend stays here in Europe and you go to America, returning in
the year 1925. Your friend, let us suppose, is in Arlesheim. You come
to Arlesheim, meet your friend and recognise him. But what has
happened meanwhile? I have already described to you how the matter,
the substance of the human body is completely changed after seven or
eight years. There is then nothing at all left of it; so that your
friend when you see hint again after ten years' interval, has nothing
of the old, actually nothing, of the substance you saw in him ten
years ago. Yet you recognised him! When you look at a man externally,
he certainly looks like a coherent mass, but if you were to see him
through a big enough magnifying glass, you would then see the blood
flowing through his head. Very well, this blood when you see it with
the naked eye, or with a small magnifying glass — this
blood looks like blood. But if you imagine a gigantic
magnifying glass then what flows there as blood no longer has the
same appearance; then it seems to consist of little
“dots” which are like minute animals. But these little
dots do not remain at rest, they vibrate continually. And when you
watch this going on it has the strangest likeness to a mass of bees.
When sufficiently magnified in his substances, man appears exactly
like a mass of bees.
If we thoroughly
examine the whole matter it must seem just as incomprehensible that one man
should be able to recognise another after ten years (for not a single
one of these small vibrating dots is any longer there). His eyes are
quite different dots, quite different minute creatures are there, and
yet one man recognises another again
So you see,
it is entirely unnecessary that it should be due to these minute creatures
and plants of which we consist, that we are able to recognise one
another, for it is the whole man, who again recognises us. The
colony is not only just so and so many thousands of bees, the whole
host of bees is a whole and complete unitary being that recognises a
man or does not recognise him. If you had a diminishing glass instead
of a magnifying glass you would be able to gather all these bees
together; you could then visualise them as united in the same way as
a human muscle. It is just this fact that one has to bear in mind
with bees — that one is not dealing with single individual bees
but must consider them as a whole, as belonging together as
intellect alone this cannot be grasped; one must be able to visualise it
as a whole. It is for this reason that the bee colony is so profoundly
instructive; it completely refutes all our usual ideas. Our ideas
really always tell us that things ought to be different But the most
marvellous things happen in the hive; not at all such as we think out
with our reason.
That it should
have a certain effect upon the bees when, for instance, through the death
of the bee-master another has to take his place, is undeniable.
Experience has shown it to be a fact. Those who have had to do with
many apiaries, and not only with one, know this quite well.
I can tell you
that bee-keeping in a variety of ways interested me extremely when I was a
boy, though the economic side, the financial problem of bee-keeping
did not interest me so much then as later, or today — because
honey even in those days was very dear and my parents could not
afford to buy any. We got all our honey from our neighbours as a
gift, for Christmas or at other times, indeed we had so much given us
that we had honey all the year round. Honey was given away in those
You see the
economic problem was not of great interest to me because, as a boy I ate
a terrible lot of honey, as much indeed as I wanted of the honey that
was given us.
How could this
be? Nowadays, under the same circumstances one could not get so much
honey as a gift, but in those days the bee-keepers in the
neighbourhood of my parents' home were mostly farmers, and honey was
just a part of the general farm produce. This is quite a different
matter, gentlemen, from starting bee-keeping as some of you do while
living on the wages you earn. On a farm, bee-keeping goes on without
one's paying much attention to it. The time it takes up is not
considered, is not taken into account. On the farm this was always
so, it was time that remained over. Time was saved somewhere or
other, or a bit of work was put off till another time and so on. At
all events the honey was looked after between-whiles, and one had the
idea that honey is something so precious that one cannot really pay
for it at all.
In a certain
sense this is quite right, but at the present time conditions are such that
all price levels are quite false. It is fundamentally impossible to
discuss prices today, for the whole question ought to be discussed on
a much wider basis, on the basis of economics. Nothing much results
if one discusses the price of separate food substances, and honey is
a food substance, not merely a luxury or a pleasure. In a healthy
social order a healthy price for honey would naturally be found; this
we do not live under healthy social conditions at the present day, all our
problems are placed in an unhealthy position. When you visit big farms today
and hear what the farm-bailiff has to say (as a rule it is not a
peasant, but a bailiff) when he tells you how much milk he gets from
his cows, it is horrible! He gets so many gallons of milk a day that
anyone knowing the nature of the cow realises it is quite
unnatural to get so much milk from a cow. But they manage to get it!
Quite certainly gentlemen, they manage to get it! Some of them
in my opinion, get up to twice as large a quantity as the cow should
really give. In this way the farm can obviously become exceedingly
profitable. One cannot even say that it is as yet very noticeable,
but the milk has not got the same force as milk produced under normal
conditions; one cannot immediately prove the great harm that is being
Perhaps I might
tell you the following. We have made experiments with a remedy for
foot-and-mouth disease in cattle; we have made many such experiments
during the last few years. They were carried out on large farms as
well as on smaller ones where the milk production was not pushed so
far as on the big farms. Much could be learnt in this way because one
had to test how the remedy worked in foot-and-mouth disease.
however, was not carried to a conclusion, for the officials in charge did
not agree, and today so many concessions and so on, are necessary. But
the remedy succeeded well, and with a slight alteration, it has also had
very good results in distemper in dogs, under the name of
When one makes
these experiments one discovers the following: —
One finds that
calves bred from cows that have been brought to an excessive production of
milk, are considerably weaker. You see it in the way the remedy affects
them. The working or nonworking of the remedy, so to speak, can
be tremendously increased in such cases. The calf grows up if it does
not die of the disease, but the calf bred from a cow that has been
over-stimulated to this over-production of milk, a calf of such
breeding is weaker than calves bred from cows that have never been so
forced. This change can be observed through the first, second, third
or fourth generations, but is then so slight that observation is not
easy. This breeding for milk-production is still of short standing,
but I know very well that if it continues, if a cow is forced to
yield six gallons of milk a day, if you continue thus maltreating it,
all breeding of cows will after a time go absolutely to ruin. There
is nothing to be done.
artificial bee-keeping things are, naturally not fundamentally so bad,
because the bee is a creature that can always help itself again, that
is indeed, incredibly able to help itself because the bee lives so much
nearer to Nature than the cow that is being bred in this fashion. It
is not even quite so bad if cows so maltreated for milk-production
are nevertheless at times taken out to pasture. But on the big dairy
farms this is no longer done. These farms have nothing but
stall-feeding; the cow is completely torn away from natural
You cannot afford
to do this in bee-keeping. Thanks to its nature the bee remains united with
external Nature; it helps itself again. And you see, gentlemen, this
self-help in the bee-hive is something extremely wonderful.
We now come to
what Herr Müller said about the bumblebees and hornets he sometimes
finds in his bee-hives, which did not sting him, whereas it can be
sometimes rather a disaster to meet a hornet.
I would like here
to tell you something else. I do not know whether those of you who are
bee-keepers have already experienced this; it may happen that you
have an empty hive, and I once saw a strange thing in an empty hive,
something like a lump. At first one could not make out what it was.
The bees appeared, apparently for no good reason at all, to have made
a lump out of all their usual products, out of all sorts of things. A
lump just like a big stone and surrounded by all manner of resin and
pitch, glue-like substances, wax and so on; such things as the bees
also collect. I was curious to know what this was and I took the lump
to pieces, and behold, there was a dead mouse inside
You see, the
mouse had got into the hive and died there, and now imagine what a terrible
thing the smell of a dead mouse would have been for the bees. In this
emergency the whole colony had the instinct to surround the dead
mouse with a shell. When one took this shell to pieces it smelt
horribly, but the smell had remained quite shut up within the
gentlemen, within the hive was not only the instinct to build cells,
to feed the brood, but, in an emergency, the instinct for something
unusual, for what has to be done when a dead mouse is in the
hive! Since the bees were not sufficient in number to carry the mouse
away, they helped themselves; they made a shell all round it.
I have heard
from others that snails or slugs which had crept inside hives were also
thus encrusted. In the hive not only ordinary instincts are living, but
true healing instincts; these are exceedingly active in the hive.
Well — if
there is a hornets nest in the hive the bees do not enclose it with a hard
shell, but continually surround the nest with excretions of their
poison, so that the hornets lose all energy, all power to attack.
Just as the mouse, the dead mouse in there can no longer send its
smell in all directions, so the hornet, though not so firmly
imprisoned, is continually exposed to the exhalations with which the
bees surround it, and thereby gets so weakened that they can do
nothing. The hornet loses all its strength, and can no longer use its
sting to defend itself when you come near it.
It is really so,
that one only does justice to the bees when one goes beyond mere intellect
and actually follows up the facts with a certain inner vision. It is
quite wonderful, this picture. One must therefore say, the
bee-colony is a totality. It must be seen as a totality. But in a
totality the harm does not appear all in a moment.
You see, if one
knows men well, one can say for instance, the following: — A man
— there are such men — is fairly fresh and strong at the age
of 65 or 66; another man is not so fresh because he suffers inwardly
from too much lime in his arteries, etc. To observe this, and to
bring it into connection with what had occurred in his childhood, is
For example, one
can give a child milk that comes from cows who get too much fodder from a
lime-stone soil. Even in the milk with which the child is nourished,
the child gets some elements of this limey soil. This may not perhaps
be at once evident. A doctor of the kind we have today, may come along
and show you a child fed on milk derived from a limey soil, and
another child fed with its mother's milk and he says, “It makes
no difference at all,” and so on. But the child fed on its
mother's milk is still fresh at the age of 65 or 66, and the child
fed on the cow's milk has too much lime in the blood-vessels at the
same age. This is so because man is a whole, and what works in
one period of time still continues to be active at a much later
period. A thing can be entirely healthy at one moment, and yet it
works on later.
This is what
I mean when I say that from the conditions. of bee-keeping today, you
cannot draw conclusions as to what artificial methods of bee-keeping
signify, or do not signify. One must think how will it be 50, 60 or
100 years hence! It is quite comprehensible that someone should say
today — I do not understand how this will be quite different
in 50, 60 or 100 years time — this is quite comprehensible.
It once happened
to me on a farm, that all in good nature, I was nearly killed when I began
to say that one ought not to get so much milk, for the breeding of cows
would suffer even sooner, and would be ruined within a quarter of a
century. One cannot as yet say very much against these artificial
methods in bee-keeping today, because we are now living under
conditions in which nothing can be done in the social domain.
But it must be
recognised that there is a great difference in whether one allows Nature to
take a free course, or whether one brings artificial methods into the
matter. I do not want to protest against what Herr Müller
has said. It is quite correct. Today one cannot as yet confirm these
things; one must wait for this. We will discuss it together in a 100
years time, Herr Müller, and see what your opinion is then! It
is a question that cannot be decided at the moment.
ERBSMHEL once more points out that modern
bee-keeping is entirely a matter of making it profitable).
The more you
find that a man does his bee-keeping as a hobby, the more you will find
him in agreement with the Spaniard whom you quoted just now. This
farmer did not do much reckoning up as to profit; this is not
generally the case today, but 50 or 60 years ago the farmer did not
do much reckoning as to what he could make out of his bees; it was
hardly taken into account. He either gave the honey away, or if he
sold it, he put the money into the children's money boxes — or
something similar. Today, the whole conditions are quite different.
One cannot imagine that a man paid by the hour, or in any sense
dependent on time for his payment, would not feel himself obliged to
take profit-making into account. He is simply driven to it by
circumstances. Today there are bee-keepers who as working men,
must stay away from their work now and again, must take leave of
absence if they want to carry on their bee-keeping in the right way
— this is so is it not? (Certainly.) Then, quite naturally,
they count up what they did not get — from other work.
Just think for
a moment; bee-keeping is so ancient that no one can say today from any
external evidence what bee-keeping really was when the bee was still
undomesticated. For the most part people know only our bees, I mean
the European honey-bees, and they know only domestic bee-keeping.
Natural History books write mostly about the bee which is universally
spread in Europe, as “the common. hive-bee.” Thus one
only knows about domestic bee-keeping. This is well worth our
attention, gentlemen, that one knows only domestic bee-keeping; one
is not aware what it was all like when only Nature herself was at
work. Bee-keeping is very ancient. And when things are so old as this
prices must be fixed on quite a different basis from that on which we
mostly work today. For this reason we really have to say that here
also we must trust that little by little men will come to realise
that better social conditions must be brought about. I believe there
will then be less talk as to whether things are profitable or not.
These competitive ideas, even if they do not imply competition among
those engaged in the production of similar goods, have at any rate to
do with those who produce different goods.
I will now
answer any other questions connected with what has already been said.
There are people
who cannot digest honey at all. They immediately get stomach trouble. Is there
any way of preventing these bad effects of eating honey?
cannot take honey are, as a rule, those who in early life have had some
tendency to sclerosis, to a hardening of the whole body, so that the whole
digestive process is too slow. That is why they cannot digest honey
which tends to accelerate the metabolic process. Because these
persons digest too slowly, the honey wants to make It quicker, and so
they quarrel with their own digestion, with the result that they have
pains in the stomach.
really to be able to enjoy a little honey — that is, not only to
“enjoy” it, but to have the inner capacity to do so. When
one finds people unable to digest honey, one has first to look for
the actual cause. You must not think there is a general remedy, an
universal remedy, but one can make use of one remedy or another,
dependent on the causes which have resulted in this hardened body.
For example, the cause might be as follows: let us say, a man cannot
take honey; he gets indigestion. One asks oneself: “Does this
man get indigestion because, as we say, he has a tendency to a
sclerosis of the head, as it is called, to a calcifying of the veins
and arteries, the blood-vessels of the head?” It can happen, in
this case, that at a certain age he is unable to digest honey. To
cure such a man we must take a preparation of phosphorus, and if one
can cure him he will then be able to take honey. Or it may also
happen that one finds the trouble in the lungs. One must then not
take phosphorus, but a preparation of sulphur. Thus the answer to the
question is that one cannot say in general that a man has indigestion
when he eats honey, how can we cure it? But one must say: If a man at
a certain age is not able to eat honey, it is an illness. A healthy
man can eat honey. If he cannot digest it he is ill, and one must
find out what is wrong with him and cure it. Not to be able to digest
honey is, however, less important than not to be able to take sugar,
as, for instance, when a man has “diabetes
mellitus,” or sugar-sickness. This, of course, is worse,
then he is really ill, much more so than when he cannot digest honey.
But even in this case he is somewhat ill and one must cure the
Like most other
insects, in the dark, bees will fly towards candle or lamp-light. I have
been frequently assured by experienced bee-keepers that bees are much
less attracted by electric light. When one goes to them with a pocket
electric torch they keep quite quiet, as though they did not notice
the light at all. Only after some little time do they get restless
Lamp or candle-light affects them much more quickly, and in greater
numbers. Is there any explanation for this behaviour? Herr
Müller says he has observed the same thing.
probably have seen, gentlemen, in the old Goetheanum, that the cupolas
were painted inside with different colours, colours made from pure vegetable
substances. But this making of colours from various plant-substances
finally proved that they would have completely faded away if the Sun
had shone into the cupola. If one had exposed these colours for some
little time, they might have lasted perhaps for some months, perhaps
a few years, but exposed to direct sunlight they would have faded so
much one would have seen nothing more of the paintings once
to the electric light, they remained. We therefore, used these colours in
a way that a painter working in sunlight could not have done at all. In
the sunlight they would have faded completely away, whereas in electric
light they were permanent.
So you see,
sunlight which has chemical properties (and you said bees were aware of this)
has effects quite different to those of electric light. Electric light
works on all substances in a much more hardening way, it does not
dissolve them. That is why the bees feel something like a very slight
cramp which they do not feel with sunlight, though of course, they
to the influences of the Signs of the Zodiac on honey production, the
peasants lay great stress on sowing seed when the moon is in the sign
of the Twins, and so on. The question is whether this idea as to the
Signs of the Zodiac is founded on external data, or if there is more
than this in it?
gentlemen, today these things are never dealt with scientifically. But
one can treat them scientifically. On the whole colony of bees, as such,
there is as I told you, an influence. The bee, and above all the Queen is,
in a certain sense, a Sun creature, and thus all that the Sun experiences
in that it passes through the Zodiac, has the greater influence. But the
bees naturally, depend on the plants, and here indeed, the sowing, the
scattering of the seed, can he very much affected by the passage of the
moon through a zodiacal sign; this concerns the preparatory substances
the bees are able to find in the plants.
are by no means fanciful, but as a rule they are represented quite
superficially; they should be much more deeply studied.
We have now come
to the end of our time. What has to be said further we will discuss next
Saturday at 9 o'clock. I think many of you have questions at heart.
Bee-keeping is so beautiful and of such great value that one cannot
ask enough about it. Ask questions of one another, of Herr
Müller, and of me. I believe we shall find a balancing of our
contradictory opinions. We need not get our stings ready like the
bees but can peacefully discuss them all. But questions must be asked
honestly and without reserve.