Data were collected on the distribution of nine families of transposable elements among second and third chromosomes isolated from a natural population of Drosophila melanogaster, by means of in situ hybridization of element probes to polytene chromosomes. It was found that the copy numbers per chromosome in the distal sections of the chromosome arms followed a Poisson distribution. Elements appeared to be distributed randomly along the distal sections of the chromosome arms. There was no evidence for linkage disequilibrium in the distal sections of the chromosomes, but some significant disequilibrium was detected in proximal regions. There were many significant correlations between different element families with respect to the identity of the sites that were occupied in the sample. There were also significant correlations between families with respect to sites at which elements achieved relatively high frequencies. Element frequencies per chromosome band were generally low in the distal sections, but were higher proximally. These results are discussed in the light of models of the population dynamics of transposable elements. It is concluded that they provide strong evidence for the operation of a force or forces opposing transpositional increase in copy number. The data suggest that the rate of transposition per element per generation is of the order of 10(-4), for the elements included in this study.