In some parts of the US honey bees are disappearing. During 2006 many beekeepers reported that the bees from some hives had simply disappeared. When opened the hives were empty and the bees were gone for no apparent reason. Researchers have subsequently determined that these die offs have occurred before but they are not yet able to assign a cause. Some believe it is a disease, some believe pesticides are involved. The condition has been named Colony Collapse Disorder.
European honey bee with pollen sac
Beekeepers and farmers who depend on bees to pollinate their crops (mostly tree fruits, nuts and some vegetables) are rightly concerned. In recent years bees and beekeepers have faced a number of new "pests". Varroa mite and tracheal mite are ectoparasites that attack adult and larval bees. Foulbrood is an important disease of honey bees, and Africanized bees, the so called "killer bees", are taking over European honey bee hives in the southwestern US. All in all this is probably not the best time to start a beekeeping business in the US!
A task force has been formed by USDA and Penn. State University researchers. I'll post updates as the task force reports their findings.