Authorities are investigating after 60,000 bees were stolen from a grocery store chain’s headquarters in Pennsylvania.

The theft happened sometime between Jan. 28 and 30, according to a Middlesex Township Police news release. The hives were taken from an apiary on The Giant Company’s corporate HQ in Carlisle.

The chain has 158 stores in three states, including Virginia, Delaware, Maryland, and seven locations in Washington DC, according to the company website.

“Bees are an essential part of our food supply chain and having these beehives were one way we were helping to address the declining bee population here in our hometown community,” a spokesperson for Giant told PennLive in a news release. “We are extremely disappointed that this happened and are continuing to cooperate with Middlesex Township Police Department.”

McClatchy News has reached out to Middlesex police and Giant for comment.

Middlesex police said the suspect or suspects likely parked a vehicle nearby, loaded the stolen colonies inside and drove off.

Bee theft is not a new crime, but it has become increasingly common in recent years, experts told The Guardian in 2020. Bees are a critical part of food production, and with their numbers shrinking, demand has grown — as have the lengths some are willing to go to get them.

Gary Carns, president of the Capital Area Beekeepers Association, has experienced this firsthand, he told WPMT.

“Unfortunately it is a big problem and unfortunately they’re being stolen by other beekeepers normally,” he told the TV station, adding that whoever took the bees seemed to know what they were doing, striking at night and in winter, when bees are least active.

Anyone with information can contact the Middlesex Township Police at 717-249-7191.

The town of Carlisle is about 110 miles west of Philadelphia.

Story by Mitchell Willetts, The Charlotte Observer