What are these tiny white pellets on my desk?
August 28, 2012 11:01 AM   Subscribe

What are these mystery pellets on my desk?

Over the Summer, I've been using my office at an aging University building about once a week. Last week, I arrived and opened one drawer in my desk to find the desk top, inside and the lips of the drawer scattered with a mixture of white and dark brown pellets, each about 1-2mm in size. The pellets crumble smoothly into powder when pressed with a thumbnail. They have a faintly chemical odor. What are they??

Possible relevant facts: The building has a known roach problem. Maintenance has access to the office, but aside from emptying the waste basket, has not been doing any work in here. The ceiling appears to be popcorn plaster, but is not joined to the cinder block walls at the edges above the desk. There is a crawlspace then rotting roof above the ceiling.

Obviously, I am suspecting this might be roofing material, asbestos, or albino roach poo.
posted by reverend cuttle to Grab Bag (11 answers total)
I'm no expert but looks like a combo of ceiling tile stuff and poo to me.

Either way, I'm throwing a fit and sterilizing EVERYTHING.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 11:04 AM on August 28, 2012 [2 favorites]

Those look a bit like roach egg cases, though the egg cases are usually darker in color (N.B.: roach pics).
posted by jquinby at 11:05 AM on August 28, 2012

Mouse droppings. Looks like the little fellows have been gorging themselves on sunflower seeds.
posted by Slap*Happy at 11:07 AM on August 28, 2012 [2 favorites]

Yeah that's mouse poop and some kind of grain or seed.
posted by Max Power at 11:09 AM on August 28, 2012

Mouse poo for sure. EW EW EW EW EW. Maybe some roofing material mixed in.
posted by Sidhedevil at 11:09 AM on August 28, 2012

Yeah, I think I'm going to have to join the chorus: mouse crap.
posted by jquinby at 11:10 AM on August 28, 2012

Eek a mouse!

Almost certainly a rodents work.
posted by merocet at 11:30 AM on August 28, 2012

The dark things look like mouse droppings.
posted by SLC Mom at 1:05 PM on August 28, 2012

Best answer: Don't want to be an alarmist but mouse droppings can harbor the rare Hantavirus and can be transmitted through simple exposure. There's a case in Yosemite National Park here that's getting a lot of media attention. I for one would stop crushing and smelling stuff I wasn't familiar with.
posted by Advocate, I at 3:36 PM on August 28, 2012 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Update: showing these to a colleague, she said her shelf was lined with identical pink pellets. They were centered around a knick-knack made of dried (non-fired) pink clay, which was missing 12% of its mass due to tiny chew marks. So, we cleaned out the drawer and discovered that I too had a non-fired clay knick knack in white with tiny chew marks in the drawer. Mystery half-solved. The white things are not seeds, or roofing material, but defecated white clay.

The only question is whether these droppings are due to roaches or mice. Given there was an actual roach in the back of the drawer (now murdered), and the scalloped chew marks are very small indeed, I am inclined to think this was the work of roach(es). Nevertheless, all is bleached now, and I am calling maintenance to bring in the cleansing fires.

Thank you everyone for your help.
posted by reverend cuttle at 7:47 AM on August 29, 2012

Response by poster: and of course the question remains as to why our academic department has been seeded with these small clay +2 Totems of Vermicular Summoning.
posted by reverend cuttle at 8:16 AM on August 29, 2012

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