WEIRD WEDNESDAY: What’s Up With That Fly?

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Posted by Heidi Schwartz urinal-fly-sticker-500x373-500x373

From New York to Amsterdam to Moscow and Singapore, flies are invading unlikely places: public urinals. Don’t worry, bug lovers, these are not real flies. Instead, decals and paintings are being incorporated into the porcelain bowls in an effort to reduce the mess associated with public restrooms for men. is in the business of “making the world cleaner one bathroom at a time.” This simple product works with a man’s basic instincts to produce a cleaner bathroom and perhaps induce some laughs along the way. According to the company’s Web site, if you “give them something to aim for, you will be amazed by the results.”

In his segment, “There’s A Fly In My Urinal,” Robert Krulwich of NPR explains:

The presence of a fly in a urinal literally changes human behavior—or at least the behavior of human males.

‘Apparently,’ May Berenbaum, head of the department of entomology at the University of Illinois says, in males, ‘there is a deep-seated instinct to aim at targets,’ and having a fly to aim at reduces what she politely calls ‘human spillage.’

When flies were introduced at Schiphol Airport, spillage rates dropped 80%, says manager Aad Keiboom. A change like that, of course, translates into major savings in maintenance costs.

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.

So the next time you gentlemen see a fly in the urinal, don’t forget to take aim.

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