Why flies were chosen as urinal targets

NPR has a story about why urinal manufacturers chose the fly as a target to reduce splashing.

Keiboom in Amsterdam says the original fly idea was proposed almost 20 years ago by Dutch maintenance man Jos Van Bedoff, who had served in the Dutch army in the 1960s. As a soldier he noticed that someone had put small, discrete red dots in the barracks urinals, which dramatically cut back on “misdirected flow.”

Two decades later, he proposed to the airport board of directors that the dots be turned into etched flies. According to Keiboom, Van Bedoff decided that guys want to directly aim at an animal they can immobilize. The ability to use one’s natural gifts and achieve victory over the foe while standing is the key, he explained. Guys, he felt, can always beat flies. That’s why flies are so satisfying.

Is that the answer?

Berenbaum, the entomologist, says she’s not convinced. More than a hundred years ago in Britain, bathroom bowls also sported insect images, she says. Back then, however, the favored target was not a fly, but a bee. And bees have stingers. It seems that men in the 1890s were willing to take more imaginative risks when peeing.

There's A Fly In My Urinal (Via Nudge Blog)


  1. I think Jos Van Bedoff is overcomplicating this. Without any scientific evidence to back up my statement, I believe that if you give men something to aim for, they’ll aim for it.

    Having recently read Mind Hacks, isn’t this an example of how the brain’s attention is drawn towards contrast? A pure white background (the urinal) and a small black object breaks up that monotony. Your attention will naturally be drawn toward it…

  2. Actually, bees were used because of the play on their scientific name. The bee genus is “Apis”. Hence, the dudes were taking “apis” when aiming for the bee.

    1. While there is a pun on apis, I’d guess that there is another, more likely, reason to use bees. Bees were Napoleon’s crest (three of them, in a triangle), and `100 years ago’ is just right for the Napoleonic wars, and France under Napoleon’s heirs. Who wouldn’t want to piss on the French Emperor?

        1. If you’d like to be pedantic, Napoleon abdicated to his son (Napoleon II) in 1815. The point was that in the neighbourhood of 100 years ago, British people using urinals would probably have connected bees to France, not a Latin pun.

  3. I maintain almost any critter or inanimate object sized less than a dime would suffice. Face it, a guy is not interested in looking around while reliving himself. Such a target would provide focus, a greater sense of relaxation and a socially acceptable reason to look intensely into the bowl.

  4. bah. Whenever I see a target, be it fly, bee or bullseye, I aim for the floor because YOU CAN’T CONTROL ME.

  5. Southbound urinals on the Maine Turnpike have bees…Northbound have dolphins. What’s the logic behind a dolphin, I wonder?

  6. I don’t look forward to what our post-apocalyptic, giant fly overlords are going to do to us for payback.

  7. I have never once seen an image of a fly or a bee in a urinal. Am I missing something?

    However, every time I use a urinal, I further refine my design for a splash-free urinal that’s been bumping around my head. The key is that the surface of the urinal and the flow of urine should be as parallel as possible, not perpendicular like most urinals.

    1. I also pee on the surface of the urinal (or toilet) that is most parallel to the stream. I always wondered why urinals are so wide and also why anyone would want to pee in the water. What a mess.

    1. hey they are barbarians. they dont even understand what this pic is. they call football a game that is played with hands. and they call real football soccer. trying pissing in one of these things would get the average american piss his pants or his face.

  8. Haven’t seen one yet. I agree with Sam, the fly should be on the side wall of the urinal so that the stream hits the porcelain more tangentially. Also, men should just sit. Even when you hit only the porcelain, there’s some back splash.

  9. At my local bar, the zero-flush urinal has a bee on it (I like the phrase “pee on the bee”) but I have never seen an ordinary urinal with a bee OR a fly.

  10. Note to #6:

    You always aim at the floor when we want you to.
    You hve NO CONTROL over it, ha ha!

  11. I’ve been a guy my entire life and I’ve never seen a urinal target before. It is strangely satisfying, tho, to melt the ice cubes that they put in the long trough style ones in some bars.

  12. Really, how much coordination does it take to take a piss in a straight line? Esp. after you’ve been at it multiple times a day for a couple decades?

    1. Really, how much coordination does it take to take a piss in a straight line?

      I have a bifurcated stream. No target is going to solve that problem. I could try two targets, but they have to be about three feet apart, on either side of the urinal.

  13. Jains aren’t supposed to harm any living being, including insects, so pissing on a fly in the urinal isn’t going to appeal to them.

  14. Actually, the name of the guy was Jos van Bedaf and he was some 20 years ago in charge in of all the household activities of Schiphol Airport in the Netherlands. It was there were he developed this idea in conjunction with the cleaning contractor of the Airport. They run tests with glued on flies first and it turned out that they saved a significant time of cleaning the mens bathrooms on the Airport after they introduced the flies. After that they commissioned urinals with fly prints for all bathrooms in the airport terminal.

    (I happened to work with the cleaning contractor at that time)

  15. Wish I could pee in a urinal. stupid female anatomy. I’d get rich making print-your-own stickers that dissolve in the length of time an average pee takes, so users could print up stickers of people they don’t like, adverts, etc, and stick them in the urinal for themselves or others to pee on. No harm, no foul. Just good pissin’ fun.

  16. My great grandad Firth invented that when he worked for Armitage Shanks, Horwich, Lancashire!!
    Haaa!!! It is the perfect point to urinate at so you don’t get any splash back!
    I’m proper buzzin’ That you are all talking about my great grandad!!!! Brilliant!

  17. They are not flies but honey bees it is an intellectual joke – the latin for honey bee is apis. I hope that this is clear, pronounce it in northern English as a piss… County hall Wakefield, is a grade one listed building and has bees and targets all over the member urinals from the days when all county councillors were men!

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