According to USDA data, the U.S. had nearly 6 million managed bee colonies in the 1940s. During World War II, honey (used as a substitute for sugar) and beeswax were in incredible demand. In addition to victory gardens, many homes also had bee hives to help with the war effort. Since that time, the number of managed bee colonies in the U.S. has dropped to approximately 2.5 million today.
In general, beekeepers expect to lose around 10% of their bee colonies during the winter, especially is areas where winters are longer and colder. However, in October 2006, some beekeepers began reporting losses of 30-90 percent of their hives. Beekeepers and scientists began calling this phenomenon Colony Collapse Disorder, or CCD, for short.
This is not the first time that unexplained colony losses have occurred. Scientific literature includes honey bee disappearances in the 1880s, the 1920s, and the 1960s. While the descriptions of these events sound similar to CCD, there is no way to know for sure if those problems were caused by the same agents as CCD since the cause was never identified.