In India, large numbers of honeybees have died after foraging on the nectar from inflorescence treated with chemicals at areca nut plantations in Tirthahalli and Hosanagar districts.
The Karnataka Biodiversity Board instructed the Shivamogga Zilla Panchayat (ZP) to stop using harmful chemicals on the areca nut crop, also known as betel, to manage insects and fungus.
According to Science Direct, arecanut is considered a fruit of ‘divine origin’ and over 600 million people chew betel nut. It is the fourth most addictive substance following tobacco, alcohol and caffeine.
See this 2:17-minute video about how areca nut farmers have a 'bike' to carry them up the trees:
Apparently, temperature fluctuations this winter in the Malnad region triggered infestations of caterpillar and inflorescence die-back, affecting over 1,000 hectares of land since January 2020. Fungus and pests grow splendidly in such temperature conditions, where it is cold at night and early morning, but sizzling hot by noon.
Even though the Department of Horticulture suggested that the infestations be treated with chlorpyrifos and other chemicals, a farmer named Mr. Ramesh from Agumbe who is a beekeeper as well as an areca nut cultivator, said the honeybees died after taking the nectar from the inflorescence of areca nut palms that had been treated with chemicals.
Honeybee deaths have been reported over a wide area—Agumbe, Basavani, Kannangi, Bidaragodu Gram Panchayat. Mr. Ramesh indicated that during winter, when there are less flowers with nectar available in the forest, honeybees will feed on the areca nut inflorescence.
Karnataka Biodiversity Board has asked the ZP to stop using chemicals to control infestations. Farmers should be educated in a natural means of controlling insects and fungus by way of awareness programs and on-site demonstrations.
Mr. Yogesh of the department suggested that farmers use neem oil to control infestations, because it will not harm the bees. He added that for at least three days after spraying the neem oil, the honeybees should be confined to their hives and fed sugar syrup.