In 2006-2007, a phenomenon known as Colony Collapse Disorder, or CCD was recorded when a worldwide decline in bee population began to occur. North America has been hit especially hard by CCD, but the cause of the syndrome is not fully understood. Some attribute the collapses to Varroa destructor mites, which are small red parasites that attach to the body of the bee, sometimes in the brood stage. Varroa mites can spread viruses such as Deformed Wing Virus, as well as generally weakening the bee. A variety of other parasites and insect diseases have also been associated with CCD, including the fungal parasites Nosema apis, and Israel acute paralysis virus. Another possible cause is environmental change-related stresses, including the effects of climate change, particularly on nectar flow, as well as electromagnetic radiation from cell phones that interfere with bees’ orientation. The practice of migratory beekeeping in the agricultural world also puts stress on the hives. There are many other possible causes of CCD, including pesticides, antibiotics, and genetically modified crops.
Honeybees are not only important for our vegetable gardens, but also for our economy: they are the predominant pollinator for an estimated $15 billion-worth of crops, 90 different species. They are responsible for pollinating about one third of U.S. crop species.
Here's a 15 minute video from 60 Minutes last year about CCD.