Insects can adapt to temperate environments by increasing levels of resistance to cold conditions over winter and/or altering reproductive patterns to focus reproduction in favourable conditions. In temperate areas, Drosophila melanogaster persists over winter at the adult stage. A previous experiment, conducted with flies kept in outdoor population cages in the temperate winter, indicated that temperate populations produced more eggs than did tropical populations following an abrupt increase in reproduction in late winter. In contrast, the tropical populations produced more eggs prior to the increase. Both patterns resulted in a higher net number of surviving offspring for temperate populations. Here we again examine the clinal pattern in reproduction using outdoor cages, this time held under tropical winter conditions. In this environment, surprisingly, egg production was higher and on average earlier in populations originating from temperate areas. However, mortality rates also increased with latitude of origin, and the relationship of lifetime egg production to latitude should therefore be measured. To test the role of altered pattern of egg production per se in the reproductive advantage of temperate populations in the temperate winter, we tested the performance of laboratory lines selected for altered reproductive patterns, under temperate winter conditions. Lines selected for high early fecundity exhibited this characteristic in the field cages and lines selected for late reproduction exhibited a relatively high fecundity in spring. The timing of the abrupt increase in egg production was identical in these sets of lines and occurred at the same time in recently collected populations, suggesting evolutionary conservation of the switch. These findings suggest that changes in early and late reproduction per se determine adaptation to temperate winter conditions, and illustrate how laboratory selection lines can be used to understand traits underlying adaptive shifts in field performance.