The burning manure pile failed.
But in the end, the bees died.
Their demise started Tuesday afternoon.
That's when an occupant in a home on the grounds of an old motel dotted with ragtag mobile homes, abandoned vehicles and an assortment of odds and ends in the 2600 block of East Benson Highway found a hive in a storage shed.
A professional bee-removal expert helped get rid of a hive that formed in the same building in February 2011. But bees returned this year with a vengeance.
"When it warmed up again, a whole new aggressive tribe moved in," said Adam Neal, who lives on the property.
The bees were pestering workers cleaning the property Tuesday, Neal said.
When the workers found manure left behind by a steer belonging to Neal's brother that had been brought over recently to graze on overgrown grass and weeds, a do-it-yourself bee-removal plan was hatched.
"They were getting stung up yesterday, so one guy lit up a little manure ... and let it burn down to where it was just smoking and he put it in a pan in the building," Neal said.
He thought the workers' mission had been completed when they left Tuesday afternoon.
But the manure smoldered overnight, and by Wednesday morning the structure was full of smoke.
Then the wind kicked up, and glowing embers swirled inside the shed.
Firefighters rushed to the property about 8:30 a.m. when employees of the nearby Pima County Sheriff's Department headquarters reported smoke.
When firefighters started to put out the fire, the smoke dissipated and the agitated bees began to swarm.
Firefighters scattered, then returned when the openings in their gear were properly sealed, said Battalion Chief Patrick Quinn, a Tucson Fire Department spokesman.
The fire was soon doused.
The shed was destroyed.
And the beehive was exterminated with foam.
Contact reporter Veronica Cruz at firstname.lastname@example.org or 573-4224.