Rudolf Steiner: The Bee Lectures of 1923 and Biodynamic Predictions of Colony Collapse Disorder

by DerdriuMarriner

Not all pain sufferers fear bee venom. Not all sweets seekers like honey. But everyone loses by ignoring Rudolf Steiner's predictions in 1923 of massive bee deaths from 1973 on.

Dr. Rudolf Joseph Lorenz Steiner died on March 30, 1925. But his name and his publications still generate interest and respect in the twenty-first century because of:
• The applicability of his concerns;
• The loyalty of his personal and professional acquaintances;
• The passion of his successors.

The strength of the commitment to preserving practical approaches and theoretical constructs finds its explanation in Dr. Steiner's personality and professionalism. Practitioners and theorists still hold Dr. Steiner in high esteem for reconciling:
• Accessibility with diligence;
• Action with thought;
• Past with present;
• Science with spirituality.

A persuasive example of that amiable expertise lies in Dr. Steiner's bee-related lecture series, whereby in 1923 he predicted colony collapse disorders within 50 – 70 years.

Pivka Railway Station: Rudolf Steiner's father, Johann, began position as station's telegraph operator, as of May 1859, prior to marriage to Franziska Blie on May 8, 1860; their previous employers, House of Hoyos, forbad employees to wed ~

Station at Pivka (then known as Prestanek) was activated on July 28, 1857, with opening of Austrian Southern Railway's tracks from Ljubljana (central Slovenia) to Trieste, northeastern Italy. Tracks completed the railway's critical Vienna - Trieste line.
Karst Plateau, traditional Inner Carniola region, southwestern Slovenia
Karst Plateau, traditional Inner Carniola region, southwestern Slovenia


Family ties anticipate the unsnobbishness in Rudolf Joseph Lorenz Steiner's (born February 27, 1861) personal and professional lives. Little Rudolf's birth bespeaks the courageous strength of his industrious, unassuming parents' mutual love. His father, Johann Baptiste Steiner (June 23, 1829 – 1910), in fact braved the opposition of influential employers within the Spanish-Austro-Hungarian House of Hoyos to his engagement in 1858 to one of the noble family's seamstresses, Franziska Blie (May 8, 1834 – 1918). Johann left his position as forest ranger on the imperial count's Lower Austrian estate at Geras. As of May 1859, he operated the Southern Austrian Railway station's telegraph at what was then Prestanek, Slovene Lands, Austria-Hungary, in what is now Pivka, Slovenia.


Rudolf Steiner's childhood home

Donji Kraljevec (formerly Murakirály), Međimurje County, northern Croatia
Donji Kraljevec (formerly Murakirály), Međimurje County, northern Croatia


Franziska and Johann married on May 8, 1860 in nearby Slavina. They moved into house #24 when Johann transferred to what was then Mirakirály, Austria-Hungary at what is now Donji Kraljevec, Croatia. But station master Laurentius Diem needed Johann in 3-day 24-7 stretches. He sanctioned Franziska's occupying the station's bedroom to deliver Rudolf on Wednesday, February 27, 1861 at 23.15 hours (11:15 p.m.). He and wife Josefa Jakl served as godparents when severing Rudolf's umbilical cord provoked massive bleeding. Rudolf was the recipient of two baptisms:

  • The emergency announcement “I baptize you in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit” by his birth witnesses;

  • The parish ceremony at Draskovec by Father Gabriel Mestritz.


"whizz kid" Rudolf Steiner in 1879: home-school with parents supplemented traditional education in Realschule (secondary school) in Wiener Neustadt ~

After Rudolf's graduation in 1879, his supportive father transferred to Inzersdorf to facilitate Rudolf's enrollment in Vienna University of Technology (Technische Universität Wien).
Wiener Neustadt, Lower Austria, northeastern Austria
Wiener Neustadt, Lower Austria, northeastern Austria


Unassuming family ties likewise augur Rudolf's intellectual and professional achievements. He drew upon diligence and unpretentiousness from both parents. Franziska and Johann emphasized considerate behavior, educational achievement, and professional advancement. Johann had his family relocated back to Lower Austria through successive promotions to station master at:

  • Pottschach;

  • Neudörfl;

  • Wiener Neustadt;

  • Inzersdorf.

The postings and re-postings reflected Johann's savvy home-schooling supplements to Rudolf's attendance at:

  • Local schools;

  • Secondary school;

  • Technology Institute of Vienna;

  • University of Rostock.

They ultimately resulted in:

  • Eligibility for academic scholarships;

  • Receipt of whiz-kid recognition in biology, botany, chemistry, mathematics, literature, and philosophy;

  • Submission of a doctoral dissertation tackling Johann Gottlieb Fichte's (May 19, 1762 – January 27, 1814) perception of the ego.


Johann Gottlieb Fichte: German philosopher's writings on perception of the ego served as subject of Rudolf Steiner's doctoral dissertation ~

portrait ca. 1807 -1808, at time of Fichte's delivery of 14 "Addresses to the German Nation" in hall of Academy of Sciences, Berlin, winter 1807 - 1808
frontispiece: J.G. Fichte, Addresses to the German Nation (1922), translated by R.F. Jones and G.H. Turnbull
frontispiece: J.G. Fichte, Addresses to the German Nation (1922), translated by R.F. Jones and G.H. Turnbull


Dr. Steiner achieved intellectual super-stardom as:

  • Editor of Johann Wolfgang von Goethe's (August 28, 1749 – March 22, 1832) science-related works, 1882 - 1896;

  • Investigator of Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche's (October 15, 1844 – August 25, 1900) finite recurrences within infinity;

  • Leader of the German branch to Annie Besant's (October 1, 1847 – September 20, 1933) Theosophical Society, 1902 - 1912;

  • Organizer of the Anthroposophical Society, 1913-.

Throughout his meteoric professional career, Dr. Steiner never forgot his village origins. He never lost the ability to interact with educated and uneducated audiences in rural and urban settings. He managed to harmonize elite and ordinary in human (anthropos-) wisdom (-sophia) and spirituality-based systems of:

  • Agriculture;

  • Art;

  • Education;

  • Science.


Aerial view of campus of Rudolf Steiner's Anthroposophical Society, founded in 1913:

The First Goetheanum (two-domed structure, upper right) was site of Rudolf Steiner's lectures about bees in 1923; on New Year's Eve, nine days after Rudolf's last lecture of December 22, Goetheanum was destroyed by arson fire.
First Goetheanum, Dornach, Solothurn canton, northwestern Switzerland
First Goetheanum, Dornach, Solothurn canton, northwestern Switzerland


Lectures in Dornach, Switzerland on February 3, November 26 and 28, December 1, 5, 10, 12, 15, and 22, 1923 attest to Dr. Steiner's everyday concerns. They consider the functioning of bees and the future of beehives.

  • Lecture 1 describes the life cycles of drones, queens, and workers.
  • Lecture 2 discusses the chemical reactions midway between smell and taste in regard to bee interactions with floral nectars and pollens.
  • Lecture 3 emphasizes the role of local nectars in the production of beeswax and hexagonal, silicic acid-imbued cells.
  • Lecture 4 finds disquieting possibilities -- of bee deaths in about 50 years and of bee extinctions in around 100 years -- from artificial breeding, feeding, and relocating of bees.


In Lecture II, Rudolf Steiner discussed hexagonal shape of each "vessel" which join together to form honeycomb:

Honeycomb of Western honey bees (Apis mellifera) with eggs and larvae: walls of the cells have been removed; larvae (drones) are about 3 or 4 days old
closeup of honeycomb
closeup of honeycomb


Lecture 5 associates bee diseases with:

  • Aeration-unfriendly wooden boxes;
  • Chemically fertilized flowers;
  • Imbalanced blood and gastric juices;
  • Non-native clover and crocus plantings.

Lecture 6 compares:

  • Bee venom-provoked medical emergencies with medicinal treatments of gout and rheumatism;
  • More exclusive floral nectar requirements of bees with the willingness of ants and wasps to digest aphid honeydew.


beekeeping in straw skeps: In Lecture VI, Rudolf Steiner discussed differences in manmade hives of straw vs. wood ~

Dr. Steiner noted that traditional beekeepers placed skeps in propitious locations for taking advantage of breezes to which straw hives are sensitive.
Tacuinum Sanitatis: medieval wellbeing book based on Ibn Butlan of Baghdad's 11th century Taqwim al‑sihha
Tacuinum Sanitatis: medieval wellbeing book based on Ibn Butlan of Baghdad's 11th century Taqwim al‑sihha


Lecture 7 expresses the interconnected well-being of cultivated and wild nature with people, Planet Earth, and the universe. Lecture 8 mulls:

  • Ancient and twenty-first century Earth without bees;
  • Critical interactions between bees and their traditional host plants;
  • Declining nutrition from mass-growing crops and mass-raising animals through chemical, non-native, and out-sourced inputs;
  • Misunderstood and undiscovered interconnections beyond, on, and within Earth and the universe.


Wooden apiaries: In Lecture VI, Rudolf Steiner explained that, in noting differences between straw and wood manmade hives, he was not suggesting reversion to straw skegs:

Dr. Steiner emphasized that, in replacing old methods (straw skegs) with new methods (wooden hives), it is essential to maintain balance by replacing valuable aspects of former method.
On an Apiary (На пасеке): 1916 painting by Aleksandr Vladimirovich Makovsky (1869-1924)
On an Apiary (На пасеке): 1916 painting by Aleksandr Vladimirovich Makovsky (1869-1924)



Through the economic law of supply and demand, increasing food production theoretically aims to maximize consumers and profits and to minimize costs and prices. Scientific advances and technological breakthroughs theoretically assure improved quality with increased quantity. But profound, super-fast changes often battle with tradition. Straddling nature-based and science-devoted worlds, Dr. Steiner nevertheless did not assume that current and future action plans are necessarily better than past or vice versa. Such clear-sighted open-mindedness explains why Dr. Steiner predicted the chemical/genetic causes and population/product effects of -- and the native, site-specific resource solutions to -- bee colony collapse disorders in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. That is why his General Anthroposophical Society still occupies his Goetheanum in Dornach, Switzerland.


Allgemeine Anthroposophische Gesellschaft

Rüttiweg 45
CH-4143 Dornach 1




Fax: 41 61 706 43 14

Phone: 41 61 706 42 42




Honeycomb in abandoned nest: In lectures delivered in 1923, Rudolf Steiner predicted the current, dire situation with bees, including Colony Collapse Disorder.

Abandoned Apis florea honeycomb, Thailand
Abandoned Apis florea honeycomb, Thailand



My special thanks to:

  • Talented artists and photographers/concerned organizations who make their fine images available on the Internet;
  • Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University for superior on-campus and on-line resources.

In Lecture III, Rudolf Steiner discussed value of artificial feedings for bees which include chamomile tea:

Chamomile flowers are important nectar sources for bees.
honeybee on German chamomile (Matricaria chamomilla) flower
honeybee on German chamomile (Matricaria chamomilla) flower

Sources Consulted


"Anthroposophical Society." Goetheanum. Retrieved September 8, 2014.

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"Demeter-International -- A Worldwide Network." Retrieved September 8, 2014. 

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Freeman, A.; and Waterman, C. (Eds.). 1958. Rudolf Steiner: Recollections by Some of his
Pupils. London, England: The Golden Blade.

"History." Demeter Association, Inc.: About. Retrieved September 8, 2014.

  • Available at:

Kiiker, Elle. 20 April 2014. "Adele Klara Johanna* Marie Gräfin Keyserlingk (von Skene)." Retrieved September 8, 2014.

  • Available at:

Kiiker, Elle. 20 April 2014. "Adalbert* Robert Alexander Graf Keyserlingk." Retrieved September 8, 2014.

  • Available at:

Kiiker, Elle. 20 April 2014. "Karl* Wilhelm Wolfgang Graf Keyserlingk." Retrieved September 8, 2014.

  • Available at:

Kiiker, Elle. 20 April 2014. "Wolfgang* Robert Karl Augen Gf. Keyserlingk." Retrieved September 8, 2014.

  • Available at:

Kugler, Walter; Kries, Mateo; and von Vegesack, Alexander. (Eds.). 2013. Rudolf Steiner: Alchemy of the Everyday. Weil am Rhein, Germany: Vitra Design Museum.

Lachman, G. 2007. Rudolf Steiner: An Introduction to His Life and Work. New York, NY: Jeremy
P. Tarcher / Penguin.

Paull, John. 2011. "Attending the First Organic Agriculture Course: Rudolf Steiner's Agriculture Course at Koberwitz, 1924." European Journal of Social Science 21(1):64-70.

Paull, John. 2012. "The Glass House: Crucible of Biodynamic Agriculture." Elementals: Journal of Bio-Dynamics Tasmania 108(Summer):18-23. Retrieved September 8, 2014. 

  • Available at:

Pfeiffer, E. 1958. Bio-Dynamic Farming and Gardening: Soil Fertility Renewal and Preservation. Translated by F. Heckel. New York, NY: Anthroposophic Press.

Rudolph, Katherine. 2011. "About Marie Steiner." Exploring the World in Colour and Speech. Retrieved September 8, 2014.

  • Available at:

Rudolph, Katherine. 2011. "About Rudolf Steiner." Exploring the World in Colour and Speech. Retrieved September 8, 2014.

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Schilthuis, W. 2003. Biodynamic Agriculture. Edinburgh, Scotland: Floris Books.

Steiner, Rudolf. 1924. The Agriculture Course. Prefaced by Ehrenfried Pfeiffer, M.D. Translated by George Adams. Rudolf Steiner Archive.

  • Available at:

Steiner, Rudolf. 1964. The Arts and Their Mission. Translated from the German Das Künstlerische in seiner Weltmission by Henry B. Monges and Lisa D. Monges. New York, NY; Anthroposophic Press.


Steiner, Rudolf. 1998. Bees. Lectures by Rudolf Steiner Translated from the German Über die Bienen by Thomas Braatz. Great Barrington, MA: Anthroposophic Press. 

Steiner, Rudolf. 1965. The Education of the Child in the Light of Anthroposophy. Translated from the German Die Erziehung des Kindes vom Geschichtspunkte der Geisteswissenschaft by George and Mary Adams. London, England: Rudolf Steiner Press.


Steiner, Rudolf. 2000. Mein Lebensgang: Eine nicht vollendete Autobiographie, mit einem Nachwort, herausgegeben von Marie Steiner 1925. Dornach Switzerland: Rudolf Steiner Verlag.

  • Available via Internet Archive at:

Steiner, Rudolf. 1993. Spiritual Foundations for the Renewal of Agriculture: A Course of Lectures Held at Koberwitz, Silesia, June 7 to June 16, 1924. Translated from the German by Catherine E. Creeger and Malcolm Gardner. Edited by Malcolm Gardner. Kimberton, PA: Bio-Dynamic Farming and Gardening Association, Inc.

Steiner, Rudolf. 1973. Theosophy: An  Introduction to the Supersensible Knowledge of the World and the Destination of Man. London, England: Rudolf Steiner Press.

Steiner, Rudolf. 2005. What is Biodynamics? A Way to Heal and Revitalize the Earth. Edited by Marcia Merryman. Introduced by Hugh J. Courtney. Great Barrington, MA: SteinerBooks.

von Keyserlingk, A.G. (Ed.). 1999. The Birth of a New Agriculture. London, England: Temple Lodge.

Wilson, C. 1985. Rudolf Steiner: The Man and His Vision. Wellingborough, Northamptonshire, England: The Aquarian Press.

"Zeittafel zu Leben und Werk von Rudolf Steine (1861 - 1925)." Anthroposophie Forum > Rudolf Steiner > Leben. Wolfgang Peter. Web.

  • Available via Forum für Anthroposophie, Waldorfpädagogik und Goetheanistische Naturwissenschaft at:


The relationship between bees and beekeepers/honey-collectors, which has endured for 15,000 years, faces an uncertain future, as predicted by Rudolf Steiner in lectures given in 1923:

The Beekeepers and the Birdnester (Das Blatt zeigt vermutlich einen Handlungsablauf): ca. 1568 pen and ink drawing by Pieter Bruegel (Brueghel) the Elder (c. 1525 – September 9, 1569)
Kupferstichkabinett (Museum of Prints and Drawings), Berlin, east central Germany
Kupferstichkabinett (Museum of Prints and Drawings), Berlin, east central Germany
the end which is also the beginning
the end which is also the beginning

Bees by Rudolf Steiner

In 1923 Rudolf Steiner predicted the dire state of the honeybee today. He said that, within fifty to eighty years, we would see the consequences of mechanizing the forces that had previously operated organically in the beehive.
Rudolf Steiner books

Garden - Bee Happy: banana-colored t-shirt ~ Available via AllPosters

Garden - Bee Happy
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DerdriuMarriner, All Rights Reserved
DerdriuMarriner, All Rights Reserved
Updated: 09/10/2014, DerdriuMarriner
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DerdriuMarriner on 09/09/2014

ESR, Yes, Dr. Steiner appreciated Mr. Muller's participation in the lectures even though the two did not agree on the future of commercial beekeeping. Dr. Steiner said commercial practices based upon altering hive activities ultimately could lead to the extinction of honey bees. Mr. Muller seemed to think that it was just a case of not using artificial fertilizers on flowering plants. He did not consider what beekeepers were doing to make bees (over) productive. At the time of the lectures, gentlemen wore hats. Mr. Muller would have to eat his hat today.

Guest on 09/08/2014

DerdriuMarriner, Well done! You've taken a complex set of lectures and distilled them to essential highlights.
It is so prescient of Dr. Steiner to have understood the consequences which would ensue decades into the future. Isn't there some story about his expressing the wish that he and a particular doubting beekeeper could be around in 100 years to revisit Dr. Steiner's predictions?

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