Dornach, November 28, 1923.
occurred to you that you would like to ask me? (An article was read from
the “Schweizerische Bienenzeitung” of
entitled “Do Bees perceive colours invisible to
I will say a
few words on this subject. You see, these experiments made by Forel and
Kühn show so plainly how thoughtlessly experiments are
carried out today. One can naturally not imagine anything more absurd
than such an interpretation of these experiments as is given here.
Think for a moment that I might do as follows: I might take a
substance — there are such substances — specially
sensitive to ultra-violet rays, i.e., to colours lying beyond
the blue and violet; for instance I take barium
platino-cyanide. I exclude all the other colours, let us say, I
exclude red, orange, yellow, green, blue — then the indigo would
come in and the violet — these also I exclude
Now I make a screen; I shut these off in the spectrum; then I have here
the so-called ultra-violet rays which are invisible to man. If I now
add this substance, this barium platino-cyanide (which is a white
powder) then it begins to shine, In a darkened room we see nothing;
now we let in these rays, screening them as they come in, allowing
therefore, only the ultra-violet rays to enter, which become visible
when I introduce barium platino-cyanide. Then one sees it. Then it
lights up. Thus, according to this article, I must state that barium
platino-cyanide is able to see with some kind of eyes because it
shows an activity. But very much the same thing happens if one
experiments with ants. Suppose that instead of barium
platino-cyanide I take ants; then I exclude the light. The ants
run towards the sugar; in the same way barium platino-cyanide lights
up. I then say (according to this article) that the ants see
the ultra-violet rays. But they need to see them just as little as
the barium platino-cyanide needs to see in order to shine. All one
can really say is, that given a certain substance it produces an
effect on the ants. More than that one cannot assert. The scientists
concerned are as thoughtless as it is possible to be and make
statements that are pure phantasy.
The only thing
one can say is this, — that through the sense-organs (once more,
according to this article this is proved by the fact that no effect is
produced if the eyes of the ants are varnished) that through the sense-organs
an impression was made on these insects. It is characteristic that
the scientist applies to ants and wasps what he has observed with
bees — and vice versa. This only shows how thoughtlessly these
experiments were carried out.
Now, one can
add the following: you see, when one proceeds further
[drawing on the black-board.]
to the so-called ultra-violet rays
— here you have red-orange, yellow, green, blue — then
indigo would come in, and the violet — the ultra-violet rays.
On the other side, the infra-red rays.
We have here the
ultra-violet rays (on the right hand side) and these have the
peculiarity (so he himself expresses it in the article) that they
produce strong chemical reactions. Whatever is introduced here
(into the sphere of the ultra-violet light) is strongly affected
chemically, with the result that if I now put an ant here it will at
once experience a strong chemical reaction. It feels this; that is
true. It feels this effect above all in the eyes. When the ant is
brought into the sphere of the ultra-violet rays it feels this, just
as barium platino-cyanide reacts when brought into the same sphere of
chemical activity. If I completely darken a room and have only the
ultra-violet rays there, then the ant would notice at once that
something was happening. For instance, if one had ants' eggs or
larvae they would be completely changed, they would be destroyed the
moment this powerful chemical working occurred. This is why the ants
rescue their eggs.
article is really concerned with is effects of a chemical nature.
I made recently is quite correct. I said the bees have a sense which is
intermediate between smell and taste; thus these things are sensed by
the bees, and it is similar in the case of ants. So little are these
gentlemen aware of the real question that they do not know, for
example, that when man himself perceives colours, even in perceiving
the ultra-violet rays, slight chemical changes take place in his
eyes. Man's perception of colour tends to be of a chemical
All that has been
investigated here is the reaction to the inner chemical change that
takes place in the bees when they are in the ultra-violet light.
Now all that is
within the sphere of black, white, yellow, grey (and grey is only a somewhat
darker white), or blue-grey, in all these colours there is no
ultra-violet. Thus all these colours are freely perceptible to the
bees. The chemical effects which the bees sense so strongly when they
come to the ultra-violet are not present in these colours. But when
the bee leaves the sphere of black, white, yellow and blue-grey and
comes into this other sphere it feels in the ultra-violet rays
something alien to it. There the bee can do nothing. It is thus so
important to note that the bee has a sense between taste and
We men make
a great distinction between smell and taste. The latter is primarily a
chemical sense; it is entirely based on chemistry. The bee has
something which is intermediate between taste and smell. This does
not contradict the fact that the bee is able to distinguish colour
when the front of the hive is painted in one way or another; for you
must consider that as all colours differ in their chemical effects,
so they can also be perceived in relation to their warmth or
If, for example,
you cover a surface with red paint and the bee approaches it, it experiences
warmth. How should the bee not know that this is different from
coming, for instance, into the sphere of blue! Near the blue surface
the bee senses coldness. The bee senses the warmth of red and the
cold of blue, and then it can naturally distinguish between them. But
one is not therefore justified in concluding that the bee sees
with its eyes in the way man does. This of course is utter nonsense.
But so it is with many other things that people think.
I have previously
told you what all such experiments amount to. I once told you there is a
certain plant, called the “Venus fly-trap” which
immediately contracts its leaves when they are touched. Just as you
make a fist of your hand when you are going to be touched —
that is, when somebody means to give you a blow — so the Venus
fly-trap waits for the insect and then shuts itself up. Then people
say: this plant, the Venus fly-trap, has a soul like men have. It is
aware of the arrival of the insect and shuts itself up.
but I always say: I know of a certain arrangement so constituted that when
an animal approaches it and touches something inside it, then it
immediately shuts up and the animal is caught. This is a mouse-trap!
If one ascribes a soul to the Venus fly-trap, one must equally
ascribe one to the mouse-trap! If one ascribes sight to the bees
because they do something or other in ultra-violet light, then one
ought to ascribe sight to barium platino-cyanide as well!
If people only
took the trouble to think they would discover many quite remarkable things,
for barium platino-cyanide consists of barium. This is a white metal
belonging to the class of alkaline metals. Now it is interesting that
such metals play a certain part in the life of man. As human beings
we could not have the right working in our bodies of the albumen we
take in if we had not such metals in our pancreas. They must be
there. In barium we have something connected with our feeling
comfortable in our digestive process. Platinum is an
especially valuable metal, as you know; a metal that is also
especially hard and heavy — it is a precious metal. All these
metals have the property that they are, once more connected with
feeling, with “sensing.”
yourselves of another thing. Cyanide is also there. This is a certain
kind of cyanic acid, of prussic acid. I told you before that man always
develops a little prussic acid in the working of his muscles. This
substance thus resembles what man is constantly producing in his
body. You can gather from this that man is particularly susceptible
in his body — not in his eyes — to what happens in
ultra-violet light — i.e., to the chemical components of
light. We can judge for ourselves if we only pay attention to these
But it is only
Spiritual Science that can enable one to observe such matters as the fact
that where barium platino-cyanide is affected a kind of feeling arises.
This applies to the bees in the highest degree. The bees sense
colours with especial intensity, but they only see the colours dimly
shining on the appearance of a self-luminous organism.
For this reason
I say, that generally speaking, twilight surrounds the bees. But when the
new Queen appears, she shines for the other bees as the glow-worms shine
for us when June is here. This is so, only as regards the three small
frontal eyes; the other eyes, the larger ones, have already some
perception of light, but as in twilight. When it is in darkness
the creature senses the presence of just those colours that work
chemically, such as ultra-violet, or of one that does not work
chemically at all — i.e., the infra-red.
At the end of
this article in the bee journal, it is stated that further information as
to the infra-red rays will be given later. Certainly, when the bees come
to the infra-red, they will behave quite differently, for then there are
no longer any chemical effects.
As to the facts,
the experiments are correct, but one must be clear that one cannot draw
conclusions such as Forel and Kühn have actually done. To do so
is a totally thoughtless way of following up the experiments. Then
people say: “this has been proved beyond contradiction.”
Naturally, but only for those who ascribe a soul to the mouse-trap!
But for others who know how far one can go, how far one is able to
think in such a way that things are rightly followed up, these proofs
are by no means beyond contradiction.
In ordinary life
we are not in the habit of following things up accurately. When people
experience some small matter or another, then, as the saying is, a
gnat can become an elephant. And so it is with our scientists. When
they get hold of something they don't stop their thinking, but
carry it on, and apply it to what is immediately before them. This
results in fantastic nonsense; a gnat becomes an elephant. When
modern science makes such statements this is due to its authority,
for what is thus brought forward meets, as a rule, with no
contradiction, because all the periodicals are in the hands of
scientific authorities. But in the long run, one will not be able to
make much use of this nonsense.
if you go over
the whole ground of bee-keeping, I believe you will find that just the
very best bee-keepers do not trouble themselves very much about the
discoveries of Forel and Kühn; for bee-keepers must work
practically, and then instinctively one does what is necessary. Of
course, it is best if one has the right instincts. I seem to have
noticed that the bee-keeper sometimes likes to settle down on a
Sunday evening, when it is snowing perhaps, and to read some such
article, because naturally, it interests him, but he cannot make much
out of it because in an article of this kind there is nothing he can
get hold of.
gentlemen, you have other interesting things to ask me about?
I should like
to add something about the Queen. We have already described how she lays
her eggs. Then we have the unfertilised Queens; for instance, in bad
weather, and then only drones are hatched which have no value. Also,
when a Queen dies and there is no young brood, then one of the worker
bees is bred to be a Queen. It also lays eggs but only unfertilised
eggs, from which only inferior drones come out.
Then I should
like to add something about swarming. At the time of the first swarm
there is as yet no new Queen there. She is still asleep in her cell and
cannot yet provide new brood. Only the older bees leave the hive with
the Queen. I can take her out and put the whole swarm back in the hive.
As to the sight
of the bees, I should like to say that when we are at work in the bee-house
and there is too much light there (for the bee-master himself there is
always too little light), then the bees are terribly agitated.
As to stinging
when the bees are swarming, it is well known with us that the first swarm
is rather ticklish; this is much less the case with casts. We hold the
opinion that young bees do not sting, that they do not use their stings.
There are certain
districts where people do not harvest the honey before August 8, which is
held to be a Holy day. August 8 is a honey day.
It can happen
that the swarm goes out and the Queen settles somewhere, and it seems
that is an end of it, but it is not so — not altogether so.
With regard to
what I said, everything pointed to the fact that the old Queen leaves the
hive when the new Queen shows herself and appears to the bees like a
glow-worm. When the swarm goes out and the old Queen has been
captured, then one can return all the bees into the hive, as you say,
and they will go on working quietly. That does not mean that one
cannot therefore say that the bees were first driven out by the
strong effect of the light of the new Queen on their tiny eyes. This
cannot be done away with. You must proceed quite logically here. I
will give you an example from life. Imagine for a moment, that all of
you here were employed somewhere, and you discover one day that you
must all go on strike because something is wrong with the management.
Let us suppose you all decide to go on strike. So you swarm out,
Then a certain
time passes and you find yourselves unable to procure the necessities of
life. You reach the hunger-stage, and are obliged to go back to your work.
I cannot now say that therefore you had originally no reason to run
away! You must consider that if you take the old Queen out of the
swarm and bring it back into the hive, then naturally, the
bees must endure the new Queen after all, for the old Queen is no
longer there. They must bite into the sour apple! What I said is
therefore not wrong; it is a question of seeing these things in the
Then you spoke
about the first swarm, when the new Queen is not yet there, when you cannot
yet speak of her. Well, have you ever seen a first swarm when even the
egg of the Queen is not there?
Nine days before
the young Queen has crept out.
To begin with
the young Queen is within her cell, as an egg. After sixteen days she is
a full-grown Queen; then she creeps out. Nine days before this
she is already there in the egg. The strange thing is that the
egg shines brightest of all. Gradually it shines less and
less, but the young Queen still shines for some time; she shines
strongest of all in the larval state. Thus, it is quite
comprehensible that you may have several swarms made up of the most
sensitive of the bees which go out. It is to be explained by the fact
that nothing happens before the young Queen is there. For what is the
young Queen? She is already there when only the egg is there.
As to an
unfecundated Queen, when the Queen is not fertilised then no worker-bees
come out but only drones, and as Herr Müller said, very bad drones
at that. This is true. The brood of an unfertilised Queen is useless
because there are no worker-bees. One must see to it that the Queen
can make her nuptial flight under the influence of the Sun.
gentlemen, once more, what a great part is played by the chemical
element. For what takes place on this flight is an effect on the sexual
nature of the bee. But the sexual nature is entirely of a chemical character.
When the Queen flies so high then naturally the impregnation is not
brought about by the light, but by the chemical working of the light.
Just in this instance you can see how delicately sensitive the bee is
to the chemical element.
You said further
that while at work in the bee-house, as a man one naturally needs light, and
this makes the bees restless.
Try to form a
vivid picture of the bee receiving chemical reactions from the light which
it feels terribly strongly. When you, as a human being, approach and let
the light in, suddenly making it light everywhere, this affects the bee
as a strong gust of air affects you; it is just as if you opened the
window and a strong draught were to blow in. The bee senses
the light, it does not feel that it becomes light all round it, but
it senses the light as a concussion, it is quite shattered by it. One
could almost say, (though I have not actually seen the bee-keeper
letting in too much light) the bees become terribly nervous, inwardly
restless. They are thrown into these chemical workings of the light
and begin to fly hither and thither almost like little swallows. They
dance up and down as a sign of how restless they feel within. The
bees would not behave in such a highly nervous way if they could
see the light; they would then try to hide away, to creep into
a corner where the light could not thus affect them.
in all these matters, we must realise how perfectly clear we need to be
as to effects that everywhere exist, and must not be compared with the
effects things have upon men. Otherwise we anthropomorphise
everything, and cannot but conclude that because man sees in a
certain way, the animals also must do the same. One cannot make such
Maybe you have
observed the following. If one notices such things, one can often become
aware of them. Imagine you are in a kitchen where the stove is nice and
warm. The cat likes to sit on the warm stove; it curls itself up and falls
asleep, has its eyes shut. Well, if there is a mouse somewhere under
the cupboard, which the cat cannot possibly see with its eyes, it may
happen that the cat suddenly springs down without opening its eyes,
pounces with absolute certainty on the mouse, and before you have
time to think the thing out to the end, the cat returns with the
mouse already in its mouth.
you gentlemen, will not say the cat saw the mouse, for it had its
eyes shut, it was asleep. Some people say the cat has a very fine
sense of hearing, and by means of this very sensitive hearing the cat
is aware of the mouse. Well, apart from this, that one must now state
that the cat hears best when it is asleep, which is a rather doubtful
statement, because sight and hearing are those senses which play so
great a part in waking life, whereas the sense of smell for example,
plays an extremely important part in sleep. It works chemically.
Within the nose, and the whole brain something chemical is happening.
Moreover, when you hear something, can you pounce upon it with
absolute certainty? This is not at all the case; hearing is not at
all such that it leads one to orientate oneself quickly. Hence, it is
not the hearing of the cat that is in question here. But what is very
strongly present in the cat is a terribly fine sense of smell,
which it has within its bristly beard. This terribly fine sense of
smell is there because in each bristle there is a little channel, and
within each bristle (see diagram 9) is a substance, and this
substance is chemically affected by the presence of the mouse. When
there is no mouse near, this substance has a certain chemical
quality, but if there is a mouse anywhere in the neighbourhood of the
cat, even some distance away, then the cat is aware of the mouse
through the chemical reaction in its whiskers.
I told you once
that there are people who, though living on the third floor, are aware of
some substance in the cellar, and can sometimes be made ill by it —
for example, by buckwheat.
easily convince themselves with what certainly the sense of smell works,
for otherwise there could he no police dogs. These dogs work very little
by sight, but much with their sense of smell. In the animal kingdom
precision and sureness cannot be ascribed to the eyes, but to
chemical activity; under the influence of ultra-violet rays
this activity is strongest of all.
If you wished
to be especially gracious to a police dog you would do well if, for
instance, you went with him and constantly held a dark lantern in
front of him so that you kept him always in the ultra-violet rays.
The police dog would then be even more certain in finding things, for
in its “smelling hairs” (for the dog also has smelling
hairs) the chemical reactions would be still more certain.
All that can
be known about the animal points to the fact that the moment we enter the
animal kingdom, one must not look for such conscious senses as those of man,
but must descend into the senses of smell and taste — into the
Herr Müller, that young bees do not sting. This is easily accounted
for, for young bees have not yet the organ of the sting as they have
not fully developed their whole inner organisation. This comes only
as they grow older. There is nothing especially remarkable in this,
and it does not contradict what I have said.
asked about artificial feeding. He takes for this four parts of water, five
of sugar, and then adds thyme, camomile-tea and a pinch of salt. What
is the effect of this?)
We are especially
able to give you information in this matter, because our own remedies are
partly based on the same principles as those that have been used
instinctively here. Not all our remedies, but a certain number of
them, are founded on similar principles.
You see, when
you feed the bees on sugar, this is certainly nonsense, for the natural
food of the bees is not sugar but nectar or honey, and pollen.
one has to empty even the half-filled combs of honey that come from the
woods, because otherwise the bees get dysentery; also when the bees have
at times only 4–6 lbs., left over, this is not sufficient.
Bees are not
accustomed to feed on sugar but on nectar and honey. This is in accordance
with their whole nature. The remarkable thing here is that in winter the
bee changes whatever food it happens to get into a kind of honey. All
food is changed by the creature that partakes of it. Thus, in winter
the bee is able, in its delicate digestive processes, to transform
the food it takes into a kind of honey.
You can well
imagine that this is a proceeding demanding much stronger forces than when
you feed the bees on honey. They do not then need to expend the same
amount of strength as when they must change sugar into honey. What
kind of bees then will those be which within themselves can transform
sugar into honey? They will only be the strongest bees, of which one
can make good use. One cannot get weak bees to change sugar into
honey; hence, they are more or less useless.
Now I said just
now that we can well understand why you take for example, camomile tea,
because you thereby spare the bee something which it has otherwise to
do in its own body. If you dilute the sugar with camomile tea, then you
take that part of the plant which prepares the nectar. For the
substance of the camomile tea has not only camomile in it, for every
plant also contains potential honey (the camomile contains this
process in a greater degree, and can for this reason not be used as a
honey plant). Suppose you have a plant, with a great deal of
so-called starch in it. The starch has a constant tendency to change
into sugar. The camomile sap already works on the starch of the plant
in such a way that it directs the sugar-sap of the plant towards the
formation of nectar.
If you give the
bees camomile tea you support them in their inner honey-process. You make
the sugar already like honey, when, you dilute it with camomile tea.
We do the same with our remedies. When one takes some kind of metal,
one cannot give it to a human being just as it is, because it would
disappear in the course of digestion. You must dilute it with
something so that it can be more readily absorbed, and so it is with
the camomile tea which you add to the sugar. Salt must be added for
the reason that salt especially makes otherwise indigestible things,
puts salt into his soup, because salt has the property of spreading rapidly
through the body, and makes food digestible.