Excerpts from Rudolf Steiner’s 9 lectures on bees:
Man has a head, and this head works upon his great body which is actually a “bee-hive” and contains in its relationship between the albuminous cells (which remain round) and the blood, the same connection that exists in the bee-hive between the Queen (round correspondence – Sun) and the worker-bees (hexagonal correspondence – Earth).
We also have “bees” within us, namely, our blood, which carries the honey to the various parts of our body. When you look for instance, at a bone, at a piece of bone, you will find hexagonal cells everywhere. The blood that circulates through the whole body carries out the same work that is done in the hive by the bees. Thus, the blood has the same forces as those of the worker-bee.
The different kinds of bees — Queens, workers and drones — all need a different number of days for their development.
Queen – 16 days, female, only dwells in circular cells of hive, reproduces after fertilization OR parthenogenesis (unfertilized eggs only become drones; “virgin-brood” – only the opposite sex is produced), corresponds to single free cells of human head
Worker – 21 days, female, hexagonal cells, does not reproduce, corresponds to blood cells in human head
Drone – 23-24 days, male, hexagonal cells, reproduces up to 1 time before dying after, linked to nerve cells of human head
So in the human head we have the same three forces as in the hive.
Well, let us consider these twenty-one days needed by the worker-bees. There is something very special about this. A period of twenty-one days is not without meaning for what happens on the earth. Twenty-one days are equal to the period of time during which the Sun, approximately speaking, revolves once upon its own axis.
In the bee we therefore have a creature before us that collects a substance extremely delicately prepared by Nature, and having done so, makes use of it in his own household.
Now we will go a step further, to something very seldom noticed because one does not stop to think about it. Having transformed the food by means of its own bodily substances into wax — this the bee produces out of itself — the bees now makes a special little container in which to deposit its egg or in which to store up food supplies. This special little vessel is, I should like to say, a really great marvel, It appears to be hexagonal when we look at it from above; looked at from the side it is closed in this way. Eggs can be deposited there, or food can be stored. Each vessel lies next to another; they fit extremely well together, so that this “surface” by which one cell, (for so it is called), is joined to another in the honey-comb, is exceedingly well made use of — the space is well used.
We must consider how the little larva which lies within it is entirely isolated, and one must not by any means believe that anything exists in Nature that is without forces. This six-angled, six-surfaced dwelling has certain forces within it; it would be quite another matter if the larva were to occupy a round one. In Nature it signifies something quite definite that it lies within this six-surfaced little dwelling-place. The larva receives the forces of the form later it feels in its body that it was once in this hexagonally-formed cell, in its youth when it was quite soft.
The bee is afterwards able to build similar cells out of the same forces which it thus absorbed. There lie the forces through which the bee afterwards works, for what the bee makes externally lies in its environment.
This is the first thing we must notice. Now there is another very remarkable fact that has been described to you. In the hive there is a variety of cells. I think every bee-keeper can well distinguish between the cells of the worker-bees and those of the drones. This is not a difficult matter, is it? It is still easier to distinguish between the cells of worker-bees and drones and those of the Queens, for the latter have not at all this form, they are more like a sack. The Queen cells have no such shape, they are more like a kind of sack; also there are very few of them in the hive. So we must say: The worker-bees and the drones (the males) develop-in hexagonal cells, but the Queen is developed in a “sack.” She is not at all concerned to have hexagonal surroundings.
Then we must consider something else. You see, the Queen for her development, i.e. until she is a complete full-grown insect, needs only sixteen days. She is then fully matured. A worker bee requires about twenty-one days to mature, which is a longer period. One might say that Nature bestows much more care on the development of the worker-bee than on that of the Queen.
But we shall soon see that quite another reason comes in question. The worker-bee then, needs twenty-one days, and the drone, the male — which will finish its task soonest of all — needs twenty-three to twenty-four days. The males are killed when they have fulfilled their task.
Now think, the worker-bee takes just that period of time for its development which the Sun takes to turn upon its axis. The worker-bee experiences one revolution of the Sun, and because it has experienced one complete revolution it enters into all the Sun can give.
If it wished to go further it would always meet only with the same Sun-influences, for if you picture to yourselves here the worker-bee, [Dr. Steiner draws on the blackboard] and here the Sun at the moment when the egg is laid, then here we shall have the point exactly opposite the Sun. The Sun revolves upon its own axis once in twenty-one days; then it returns again and the first point is again here. If this were to continue, only such Sun-workings would be there as had once been there already. So the worker-bee by the time it is fully developed has experienced all that the Sun can give. Should the worker-bee continue to develop it must leave the Sun and enter the earth development; it will then no longer be having a Sun-influence in its development because it already had this, and has tasted it to the full. Now it passes into the earth development, but only as a perfect insect, as a matured creature. I might say — the worker-bee occupies herself only momentarily with this earth-development, and has then finished with her Sun-development, is entirely a creature of the Sun.
Now let us look at the drone. The drone, I might say, considers the matter a little longer. It does not think itself quite ready after twenty-one days, so before it is fully matured it enters the earth-development. The drone is thus an earthly being, whereas the worker-bee is entirely a child of the Sun.
How is it with the Queen? The Queen-bee does not even go through the whole of the Sun-revolution, but stays behind and remains always a creature of the Sun. For this reason the Queen is much nearer to her larval state than the others; the drones (the males) are the farthest removed from the larval state. The Queen is thereby able to lay eggs. In the bees it is clearly to be seen what it signifies to be exposed to the earth-influence or to the Sun-influence. As you know, it depends entirely on whether the bee completes, or does not complete its Sun-development, that it becomes either a Queen, a worker or a drone. The Queen lays eggs, and it is because she remains always under the influence of the Sun and receives nothing from the earth that she is enabled to do so. The worker-bee goes a little further and develops for another four or five days; it tastes the Sun to the full. But then, just when its body becomes firm enough it goes over, just for a moment, as I said, into the earth-development. Thus the worker-bee cannot return again to the Sun, for it has already thoroughly absorbed its influences. Consequently the worker-bee cannot lay eggs.
The drones are the males; they can fertilize; this power of fertilization comes from the earth; the drones acquire it in the few days during which they continue their growth within the earth-evolution and before they reach maturity. So we can now say: in the bees it is clearly to be seen that fertilization (male fecundation) comes from the earthly forces, and the female capacity to develop the egg comes from the forces of the Sun. So you see, you can easily imagine how significant is the length of time during which a creature develops. This is very important for, naturally, something happens within a definite time which could not occur in either a shorter or a longer time, for then quite other things would happen.
But there is something further to be considered. You see, the Queen develops in sixteen days. Then the point which stood opposite to her in the Sun is perhaps only here; [Drawing on the blackboard.] the Queen remains within the Sun-development. The remaining part of the Sun’s course is gone through by the worker-bees, but they too remain within the Sun-development; they do not really pass out of it to the earth. And so, you see, they feel themselves entirely akin to the Queen because they belong to the same Sun-influence; the whole host of the worker-bees feel themselves related to the Queen. They say: — “The drones are betrayers; they have fallen to the earth. They no longer belong to us; we suffer them only because we need them.”
For what are they needed?
As you know, it sometimes happens that the Queen is not fertilized; nevertheless she lays eggs. The Queen need not necessarily be fertilized to lay eggs. Then we have what is called “virgin-brood.” This also happens with other insects; the scientific name for it is parthenogenesis. But only drones can emerge from these unfertilized eggs; no workers and no Queens. Thus when a Queen is unfertilized, worker-bees and Queens do not hatch out, only drones; such a colony is naturally useless.
You see, in “virgin-brood” only the opposite sex is produced, not the same sex. This is a very interesting fact, and an important one in the whole household of Nature — namely, that fertilization is necessary if the same sex is to come into being (this applies to the lower animals of course, not to the higher ones). With the bees it is the case that only drones emerge where fertilization has not taken place.
This fecundation of the bee is indeed a very special affair; there is nothing like a marriage-bed to which one retires, it all takes an entirely different course. It takes place openly, in the full sun-light and, though this may seem very strange at first, as high as possible in the air. The Queen-bee flies as far as possible towards the Sun to which she belongs. (I have already described this to you), and that drone alone which can overcome the earthly forces — for the drones have united themselves with the earthly forces — only that drone which can fly the highest is able to fecundate the Queen up there in the air.
The Queen returns and lays her eggs. So you see, the bees have no marriage-bed, they have a marriage flight; they must strive as far as they are able, towards the Sun. One must have, is it not so, fine weather for this marriage flight which really needs the Sun? In bad weather it cannot take place.
Now all this shows you how closely the Queen remains related to the Sun. When fertilization has taken place, then worker-bees emerge from the worker-cells; first the little larva appear, as Herr Müller has so well described, and then after twenty-one days develop into worker-bees. In the sack-like cells a Queen develops.
Indeed, in order that the Queen may remain in the sphere of the Sun she may not dwell in an angular cell, but within a circular one. There she remains within the Sun-influence.
Here we touch upon something that makes bee-keeping so extremely interesting for everyone. For you see, in reality, things go on in the hive in exactly the same way as in the human head, only with a slight difference. In our head, for instance, the substances do not grow to such dimensions. In the human head we have nerves, blood-vessels, and the separately situated round-shaped cells which are always to be found. We have these three varieties of cells in the human head. The nerves consist of separate cells which only do not grow into independent beings because Nature encloses them on all sides; in reality, however, these nerves would like to become little animals. If the nerve-cells of the human head could develop in all directions, under the same conditions as those of the hive, then the nerve-cells would become drones.
The blood-cells which flow in the veins would become worker bees; and the single free cells which are, above all, in the center of the head and go through the shortest period of development, may be compared with the Queen bees.
So in the human head we have the same three forces as in the hive.
Now the workers bring home what they gather from the plants, and work it up in their own bodies into wax, of which they then build the wonderful structure of the combs. The blood-cells of the human head however, do the same thing. From the head they pass into the whole body. When you look for instance, at a bone, at a piece of bone, you will find hexagonal cells everywhere. The blood that circulates through the whole body carries out the same work that is done in the hive by the bees. It is similar with the cells of our muscles which, once more, correspond to the wax-cells of the bees, but these cells being softer, dissolve more quickly, so it is here less noticeable. A study of the bones shows it very well. Thus, the blood has the same forces as those of the worker-bee.
One can even follow their development through the course of time. The cells which you find first developed in the human embryo, and which subsequently remain unchanged, are those that already exist in the early stages of embryonic life. The others, the blood-cells, come into existence somewhat later, and finally the nerve-cells are developed — just as with the bee-hive. Only man builds up a body which obviously belongs to him; the bee also builds up a body, but for the worker-bees, this body is the honey-comb — the cells. This building of the comb corresponds to what happens within our bodies, — namely, that the blood-cells in reality do this out of a kind of wax — but here it is not so easy to prove.
We ourselves are made of a kind of wax, just as the honey-comb forms the marvelous structure we find in the skep or hive.
So this is how it is. Man has a head, and this head works upon his great body which is actually a “bee-hive” and contains in its relationship between the albuminous cells (which remain round) and the blood, the same connection that exists in the bee-hive between the Queen and the worker-bees. Our nerves are continually destroyed; we continually use up our nervous system. We do not immediately kill our nerves — as the bees kill the drones — for in this case we should die every year, but, none the less, our nerves get weaker every year, and it is through this gradual weakening of the nerves, that man really dies. We are then no longer able to experience our body rightly; a man is actually always dying from the wearing out of his nerves.
When you look at the head — which represents the hive — you find that here all is well protected. If one injures one’s head, it is a serious matter; the head cannot bear it. Equally, what happens through the presence of the new Queen — who is there by reason of the marriage flight — is something the bees cannot endure; they prefer to go away rather than remain with her.
This is why bee-keeping has always been regarded as profoundly significant. Man takes away from the bees — perhaps 20% of their honey — and one can justly say that this honey is extremely valuable to man, for with his ordinary food he gets very little honey because honey is distributed in such very small quantities in the plant-world. We get only minute quantities of honey into our bodies in this way.
We also have “bees” within us, namely, our blood, which carries the honey to the various parts of our body. It is honey that the bee needs for producing wax, out of which it then makes the “body” of the colony.
– Rudolf Steiner
His full lecture series on bees can be found here: