Position-effect variegation is a phenomenon in which cell-autonomous genes, normally expressed in all cells of a tissue, are expressed in some cells but not in others, leading to a mosaic tissue. Variegation occurs when a normally euchromatic gene is re-positioned close to heterochromatin by chromosome rearrangement. The extent of variegation is known to be influenced by a number of environmental and genetic factors. In the courss of investigations of the influence of the pH of larval medium on the extent of eye-colour variegation in In(1)ω
m4 Drosophila melanogaster, we have found that the extent of variegation depends on development time. Flies reared at pH 2·6 develop slowly and show more extreme variegation than those reared at higher pH. This effect, as well as variations within the pH treatments, can be accounted for by differences in development time. The observed regression relationship between variegation and development time also appears to accommodate the influences of temperature on both variables. We suggest that development time may account causally for the reported influences of a number of environmental agents (temperature, crowding, chemicals) on variegation. Ways in which this might occur are discussed in the context of models of the molecular basis of differential gene activity.