Mystery spheres - what are they???

Growltiger

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Mysterious spheres have started appearing in my house. They are hard and vary in size between 2 and 3mm in diameter. I have broken one open and it looks the same inside as outside. There are tiny areas of colour visible.

Are they natural or manufactured? What are they?

Here is a photo, the ruler is marked in mm.
(Nikon D300, 60mm Nikkor mounted reversed, f/16, two R1 macro flashes.)

Spheres.jpg
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What are they

I believe they are called concretions and occur naturally in sedimentary rocks. Of course it has been 40 years since I studied geology in college and could be wrong on the name.

DaveO
 
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What insects occur locally that use "mud" to build a nest? For example, here there is a wasp species that gathers dirt, rolls it along with saliva into a mud ball, then flies back to the site where it builds a tunnel shaped nest for the eggs to hatch and mature through the larval stages into adulthood. There are numerous beetle and even a few birds species that do the same (although the size implies an insect). These dried balls could be an example of an abandonded attempt by one (or a colony).
 

Growltiger

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What insects occur locally that use "mud" to build a nest? For example, here there is a wasp species that gathers dirt, rolls it along with saliva into a mud ball, then flies back to the site where it builds a tunnel shaped nest for the eggs to hatch and mature through the larval stages into adulthood. There are numerous beetle and even a few birds species that do the same (although the size implies an insect). These dried balls could be an example of an abandonded attempt by one (or a colony).

Interesting idea. I have never seen any insects, (but I have seen spiders) in the room where the spheres have appeared (on the floor). It is the oldest part of the house (300 years) but carpeted and clean and dry and it is hard to see how insects could have got in to do this. The spheres are extremely hard, like ball bearings, I had to use an edge cutter to break one open.
 

Growltiger

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I believe they are called concretions and occur naturally in sedimentary rocks. Of course it has been 40 years since I studied geology in college and could be wrong on the name.

DaveO

I have looked up concretions and immediately found some disgusting human concretions. Fortunately the pictures of them look nothing like these ones, so I'm sure these didn't somehow come out of my nose or elsewhere!!!

Mineral concretions seems a possibility. It is hard to see how they would get in. We never wear our outside shoes in the house, so dirt, stones etc. can't easily enter this room, which is at the far end away from the entrances.

Searches of images of concretions on Google have not produced anything that looks like these.

I'm sure the tiny flecks of colour are a clue. Some are black, some are red.

Still a mystery.

PS to Ron. If your breakfast cereal looks like that I would switch!
 
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wow those are quite small.. too small to be wasps. The wasps that roll mud balls for their nests are something like 20-25mm long so you would see one of those plus their balls of mud that are not perfectly round like that. Just a guess but since you are not seeing any signs of insects and its in the oldest part of the house could it be Termites or Ants of some sort?
 

Growltiger

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wow those are quite small.. too small to be wasps. The wasps that roll mud balls for their nests are something like 20-25mm long so you would see one of those plus their balls of mud that are not perfectly round like that. Just a guess but since you are not seeing any signs of insects and its in the oldest part of the house could it be Termites or Ants of some sort?

There is only one termite colony in England, affecting two houses, and after 12 years work the government has almost succeeded in killing them (spend so far is £190,000 or $312,000). It is nowhere near here.

I have never seen an ant in the house.

We do have a lot of wasps around.
 
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Another theory...
Pulling from my biology and geology background, research lacustrine ooids. You said these spheres are appearing in the oldest section of your home. If this is the case, they would likely have originated in the water and mud from the Severn.

So the theory is, presuming there is stonework in the affect area, is that the soil used to create the cement for the stonework would have come from the Severn (or where the Severn was hundreds if years ago) and was full of live and fossilized ooids. These could theoretically erode from the cement over the course of many decades and simply fall onto the adjacent floor. The formulation of the ooids would likely be harder than the surrounding cement, and therefore maintain their shape and composition while the cement degrades mire rapidly.

There you go; my csi potential explanation :tongue:
 

Growltiger

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Another theory...
Pulling from my biology and geology background, research lacustrine ooids. You said these spheres are appearing in the oldest section of your home. If this is the case, they would likely have originated in the water and mud from the Severn.

So the theory is, presuming there is stonework in the affect area, is that the soil used to create the cement for the stonework would have come from the Severn (or where the Severn was hundreds if years ago) and was full of live and fossilized ooids. These could theoretically erode from the cement over the course of many decades and simply fall onto the adjacent floor. The formulation of the ooids would likely be harder than the surrounding cement, and therefore maintain their shape and composition while the cement degrades mire rapidly.

There you go; my csi potential explanation :tongue:

Thank you, that is more than plausible. I had never even heard of ooids before.

There is no exposed stonework in the room affected. But there is in the room immediately leading to it, around the old fireplace, and close examination of the stone and mortar shows particles that can come loose. Three hundred years ago mortar wasn't the same as today's mortar. So it is plausible that some bits get brushed off the wall, and then transported under my foot onto the carpet in the study.

Here are two photos I just took. The first shows a close-up of original stones and mortar to the right of the fireplace. There are no spheroids exactly like the samples, but they are similar.

Stone%20wall.jpg
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The second photo shows you the old bread oven to the left of the fireplace, to give you an idea of the old construction.

Bread%20oven.jpg
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The composition of that cement and the stonework would definitely support the theory. Lots of calcium rich stuff there! If you have any decent acid handy (hydrochloric or sulfuric especially), you could put a small drop on a sphere and see what happens. If it bubbles, it's a calcium carbonate composition and would even further indicate the likelihood of ooids.

I'm totally jealous of that stone oven!! Do you ever use it to bake in? There could be some uber serious pizza work going on there!!
 

Growltiger

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The composition of that cement and the stonework would definitely support the theory. Lots of calcium rich stuff there! If you have any decent acid handy (hydrochloric or sulfuric especially), you could put a small drop on a sphere and see what happens. If it bubbles, it's a calcium carbonate composition and would even further indicate the likelihood of ooids.

I'm totally jealous of that stone oven!! Do you ever use it to bake in? There could be some uber serious pizza work going on there!!

The strongest acid I have is appliance descaler. I just took one sphere and put a few drops of descaler on it and then put it under the microscope. Within a minute I could see tiny bubbles, and now after 10 minutes outer layers are falling off and it is starting to disintegrate into a sort of porridge. That certainly supports your theory.

All the stone here is limestone. Outside one hits rock only a few inches down, it is very hard to plant things. Where the house is used to be a quarry a few hundred years ago. They were extracting stone for building.

The bread oven would probably have been used for proving bread. We have open log fires next to it, but we don't use it for cooking, it is easier in the kitchen (with a Panasonic bread maker). The oldest walls are about 5 feet thick, with loose rubble inside, which is tricky to drill to run cables through.

Thanks for your expert help solving the mystery.
 
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